Ag­ing in the LGBT com­mu­nity

Albuquerque Journal - - SENIOR LIVING - BY ANA VECIANA-SUAREZ MIAMI HER­ALD

“THIS RE­SEARCH HIGH­LIGHTS PATH­WAYS TO BET­TER UN­DER­STAND HEALTH FOR ALL MARGINAL­IZED COM­MU­NI­TIES.” KAREN FREDRICKSEN-GOLDSEN, PRO­FES­SOR AND DI­REC­TOR, UW’S HEALTHY GEN­ER­A­TIONS HART­FORD CEN­TER OF EX­CEL­LENCE

Aseries of re­ports be­lieved to com­prise the first lon­gi­tu­di­nal study of its kind found that LGBT Amer­i­cans 50 years and older are at higher risk of dis­abil­ity, car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, de­pres­sion and so­cial iso­la­tion.

But the group — at 2.7 mil­lion strong — is also re­silient, choos­ing to be ac­tive in their com­mu­ni­ties, par­tic­i­pat­ing in well­ness ac­tiv­i­ties and serv­ing in the mil­i­tary.

Find­ings from the “Ag­ing with Pride: Na­tional Health, Ag­ing, Sex­u­al­ity/Gen­der Study” by Univer­sity of Wash­ing­ton’s School of So­cial Work were pub­lished this month in a 2017 sup­ple­ment of The Geron­tol­o­gist. The study doc­u­ments how cer­tain life events, in­clud­ing com­ing out, work and re­la­tion­ships, af­fect health and qual­ity of life. It also looks at var­i­ous other fac­tors, such as race/ eth­nic­ity, part­ner­ship sta­tus, re­siliency among HIV-pos­i­tive gay and bi­sex­ual men, and trans­gen­der older adults with prior mil­i­tary ser­vice. So­cial net­works, men­tal health, high­risk al­co­hol con­sump­tion and health care en­gage­ment were also stud­ied.

The com­pre­hen­sive study is likely to prove an im­por­tant foun­da­tion for both fu­ture re­search and pol­icy as the pop­u­la­tion of older Amer­i­cans who self­i­den­tify as les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual or trans­gen­der — a de­mo­graphic that is un­der­stud­ied — is ex­pected to in­crease to more than 5 mil­lion by 2060.

“It’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand the health and well-be­ing of LGBT older adults so we can take steps to re­duce health dis­par­i­ties,” said prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor Karen Fredrik­sen-Goldsen, pro­fes­sor and di­rec­tor of the UW’s Healthy Gen­er­a­tions Hart­ford Cen­ter of Ex­cel­lence, in a state­ment. “This re­search high­lights path­ways to bet­ter un­der­stand health for all marginal­ized com­mu­ni­ties.” Among the find­ings:

41 per­cent have a dis­abil­ity, higher than for het­ero­sex­ual adults of the same age. In the realm of other health dis­par­i­ties, les­bian and bi­sex­ual older women have higher rates of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease and obe­sity than het­ero­sex­ual older women. And gay and bi­sex­ual older men are more likely to ex­pe­ri­ence poor phys­i­cal health, and to live alone than het­ero­sex­ual older men.

82 per­cent en­gage in mod­er­ate phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity. In ad­di­tion, 91 per­cent en­gage reg­u­larly in well­ness ac­tiv­i­ties.

89 per­cent feel pos­i­tive about be­long­ing to their LGBT com­mu­ni­ties and 38 per­cent at­tend spir­i­tual or re­li­gious ac­tiv­i­ties at least once a month.

41 per­cent of trans­gen­der older adults, 41 per­cent of bi­sex­ual men and 34 per­cent of gay men have served in the mil­i­tary.

82 per­cent have been vic­tim­ized at least once in their lives, with 64 per­cent at least three times.

68 per­cent have ex­pe­ri­enced ver­bal ha­rass­ment; 43 per­cent were threat­ened with vi­o­lence.

31 per­cent re­port de­pres­sion; 53 per­cent ex­pe­ri­ence lone­li­ness.

14 per­cent of gay and bi­sex­ual male par­tic­i­pants are liv­ing with HIV.

13 per­cent have been de­nied health care or re­ceived in­fe­rior care. Ac­cess to health care may also be ham­pered be­cause of sex­ual or gen­der iden­tity. For ex­am­ple, 21 per­cent do not dis­close their sex­ual or gen­der iden­tity to their physi­cian and 15 per­cent fear ac­cess­ing health care out­side the LGBT com­mu­nity. What’s more, 22 per­cent of trans­gen­der older adults need to see a doc­tor, but can’t af­ford it.

The UW study, funded by the Na­tional In­sti­tute on Ag­ing, sur­veyed 2,450 adults, with re­sults pub­lished in the form of 10 ar­ti­cles in The Geron­tol­o­gist sup­ple­ment. They fo­cus on three themes: in­flu­ence of life events; di­ver­sity and sub­group dif­fer­ences; and pro­cesses and mech­a­nisms un­der­ly­ing health and qual­ity of life.

“The in­sights gleaned from this study of ag­ing among LGBT older adults can deepen our un­der­stand­ing of the rich­ness, di­ver­sity and re­silience of lives across the life course,” Fredrik­sen-Goldsen said. “As we move for­ward in ag­ing-re­lated re­search, ser­vices and poli­cies, it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand that these com­mu­ni­ties are di­verse and that unique groups face dis­tinct chal­lenges to their health.”

OLGA AKMEN//LON­DON NEWS PIC­TURES

LGBT cam­paign­ers, in­clud­ing Peter Tatchall, hold a protest vigil out­side the Gen­eral Synod of the Church of Eng­land, where same-sex mar­riage was de­bated in Lon­don.

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