Report: Senior Living Facilities Need to Be In Tune With Rising Population of LGBT Adults

Research shows that older LGBT adults face unique aging challenges, and that this population of adults will double by 2030.

Senior living facilities must be aware of the needs and challenges of this population, according to new research from the UCLA School of Law.

The report makes a few points on health disparities in this population:

* LGBT older adults have worse mental and physical health compared to heterosexual and cisgender older adults. LGB older adults have higher risks of mental health issues, disability, and higher rates of disease and physical limitation than their heterosexual counterparts. Compared to their cisgender peers, transgender older adults also face a higher risk for poor physical health, disability, and depressive symptoms, many of which are associated with experiences of victimization and stigma.

* Studies also find that LGBT older adults have a higher prevalence of engaging in risky
health behavior, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and risky sexual
behavior compared to non-LGBT older adults. However, LGBT older adults have higher rates of HIV testing than non-LGBT seniors.
* Among LGBT older adults, HIV-positive LGBT elders have worse overall mental and physical health, disability, and poorer health outcomes, and a higher likelihood of experiencing stressors as well as barriers to care, than HIV-negative LGBT elders.
These health disparities give rise to certain service implications; from the report:
* LGBT older adults are a growing population likely in need of more frequent health care and social support. From a service perspective, culturally sensitive training for health care and social service agencies and professionals that provide support to elders could be critical in alleviating expectations of and experiences of discrimination that many LGBT older adults fear when seeking healthcare and professional help.
The report then notes that some health administrators feel LGBT issues are absent from agenda-setting meetings:
Invisibility of LGBT elders was a theme voiced not only by LGB older adults receiving care but also by the providers and administrators providing senior health care (Brotman et al., 2003; Knochel, Croghan,  Moone, & Quam, 2010). In a focus group study that included health administrators, Brotman and colleagues (2003) found that LGBT issues were avoided or ignored in agenda setting meetings.
On the other hand, survey data assessing providers’ readiness, attitudes, and experiences working with LGBT older adults in Michigan and the Midwest area showed that most providers were aware that LGBT older adults faced additional challenges from the general aging clientele and responded positively to providing or receiving training to work with LGBT older adults (Hughes, Harold & Boyer, 2011; Knochel, Croghan, Moone, & Quam, 2010). Providers believed their current services were appropriate for and environment welcoming toward LGBT older adults. However, almost half of the provider respondents in one survey reported that establishing separate services for LGB and T adults was not a good idea (Knochel, Croghan, Moone, & Quam, 2010).
Additionally, few agencies reported that programs or efforts, such as outreach programs, existed to help LGBT older adults and few collected sexual orientation and gender identity demographics of their clientele. Agencies in urban areas or in the West had more requests for LGBT related services and more programs than did agencies in rural areas or the South (Knochel, etal., 2010).
Read the full report here.

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