LGBT ageing

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Ivy Bottini, LGBT retirement advocate, speaking at Stonewall Democratic Club on January 28, 2019

LGBTQ ageing addresses issues and concerns related to the ageing of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Older LGBT people are marginalised by: a) younger LGBT people, because of ageism; and b) by older age social networks because of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, heteronormativity (the assumption that everyone is heterosexual), heterosexism (the privileging of heterosexuality), prejudice and discrimination towards LGBT people.

Research overview[edit]

There has been a growth of interest in lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) ageing in recent years.[1] There is a growing body of academic literature on the subject from the USA,[2] the UK,[3] Australia,[4] Canada,[5] the Netherlands,[6] Israel[7] and Ireland.[8] There is also a number of documents from social policy and campaign organisations, particularly in relation to health and social care issues, for example from the Metlife Mature Market Institute.[9][10]

The earliest waves of research sought ‘to challenge the image of the lonely and bitter old queer’[11] and ‘suggested that older gay men and lesbians are not alone, isolated, or depressed but benefit from navigating a stigmatized identity through crisis competence’,[12] which also informs resilience in dealing with inequalities associated with older age. Subsequent authors questioned the positive bias which may have been present in some of these initial studies.[13] More recent research has focused on health, housing and social care and support needs,[14] older LGBT rights [15] and also the differences between and among older LGBT individuals, particularly in relation to gender.[16] There is a lack of research on black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) older LGBT individuals, ageing and bisexuality, issues of class and other intersections.[17][18]

Informal social support[edit]

Present cohorts of older lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people are more likely to be estranged from their biological families, less likely to have children, and thus less likely to have access to intergenerational social support in later life.[19][20] They may have strong ‘family of friends’ networks, but as these tend to be formed by people of similar ages, when, in older age, they need increased care and support at around the same time, they are then also less likely to be able to provide it to one another.[21] This means that older LGB people are more likely to need formal social care and support sooner, and in greater numbers, than older heterosexual people, particularly, for those in couples, after a partner has died.[22] Older transgender people with children, particularly those who have transitioned in later life, can experience rejection from biological families and so even those with children may lack access to intergenerational support.[23][24]

Housing and social care[edit]

Mainstream housing and social care provision (domicilary/home care, community care, supported housing, retirement and nursing home facilities) is ill-equipped to meet the needs of older LGBT people.[25] Many older LGBT people currently living in older age accommodation or care spaces try to conceal their lives, identities and significant relationships if they can.[26] They fear being misunderstood, vulnerable to prejudice and discrimination or isolated from their families and friends.[27] They are especially concerned about care if they develop dementia, in terms of 'coming out to care'[28] whether their identities will be respected, their memories validated, and who will be there to speak up for them.[29][30] In response to these issues and concerns a range of good practice guidelines have been developed in the US, for example focussing on cultural competence[31][32] or more practical step-by-step advice,[33] UK,[1] and Australia.[34] However, it is not yet clear how many commissioners and providers of services for older people are following these guidelines, and many older LGBT people continue to consider older age care spaces to be unsafe places in which to spend their final years.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Westwood, S, King, Andy, Almack, Kathy and Suen, Y-T (2015) Good Practice in Health and Social Care Provision for Older LGBT people. In J. Fish and Kate Karban (eds) Social Work and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Health Inequalities: International Perspectives pp 145-159. Bristol: Policy Press.
  2. ^ Kimmel, Douglas, Rose, Tara and David, Steven (eds) (2006). Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Ageing. New York: Columbia University Press.
  3. ^ Cronin, Ann (2006). ‘Sexuality in gerontology: A heteronormative presence, a queer absence.’ In S.O. Daatland and S. Biggs (eds) Ageing and Diversity: Multiple Pathways & Cultural Migrations, pp. 107-122. Bristol: Policy Press.
  4. ^ Harrison, Jo (2006). ‘Coming Out Ready or Not! Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Ageing and Aged Care in Australia: Reflections, Contemporary Developments and the Road Ahead.’ Gay & Lesbian Issues and Psychology Review, 2(2): 44-53.
  5. ^ Brotman, Shari, et. al. (2007). ‘Coming Out to Care: Caregivers of Gay and Lesbian Seniors in Canada.’ Gerontologist, 47: 490-503.
  6. ^ Fokkema, Tineke and Kuyper, Lisette (2009). ‘The Relation Between Social Embeddedness and Loneliness among Older Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Adults in the Netherlands.’ Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38(2): 264-275.
  7. ^ Dr. Yitschak Shnoor and Dr. Ayelet Berg-Warman, "The Needs of Aging LGBTs," Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute (Jerusalem), 2019.
  8. ^ GLEN, Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (2011) Visible Lives: Identifying the experiences and needs of older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Ireland. Dublin: GLEN.
  9. ^ "Metlife Mature Market Institute, Lesbian and Gay Aging Issues Network of the AmericanSociety on Aging, & Zogby International. (2006). Out and Aging: The Metlife Study of Lesbian and Gay Baby Boomers" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-10-02. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  10. ^ "Insurance and Employee Benefits - MetLife". Archived from the original on 2017-03-06. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  11. ^ Hughes, Mark (2006). ‘Queer ageing.’ Gay and Lesbian Issues and Psychology Review, 2(2): 54-59, p. 57.
  12. ^ Fredriksen-Goldsen, Karen I. and Muraco, Anna (2010). ‘Aging and Sexual Orientation: A 25-year review of the literature.’ Research on Aging, 32(3): 372-413, p.402
  13. ^ Berger, Raymond (1996). Gay and Gray: The Older Homosexual Man, Second Edition. New York: Routledge.
  14. ^ Carr, S. and Ross, P. (2013) Assessing current and future housing and support options for older LGB people. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
  15. ^ Knauer, N. (2009). ‘LGBT Elder Law: Toward Equity in Aging.’ Harvard Journal of Law and Gender, 32, 301-358.
  16. ^ Averett, Paige , Yoon, Intae and Jenkins, Carol L. (2012). ‘Review of the Literature on Older Lesbians: Implications for Education, Practice, and Research.’ Journal of Applied Gerontology, 31(4): 537-561.
  17. ^ Cronin, Ann, et. al. (2011). ‘Categories and their consequences: Understanding and supporting the caring relationships of older lesbian, gay and bisexual people.’ International Social Work, 54(3): 421-435.
  18. ^ "Where are our elders?". 29 January 2015.
  19. ^ Guasp, A. (2011). Lesbian, gay and bisexual people in later life. London: Stonewall.
  20. ^ Westwood, S. (2015) We See it as Being Heterosexualised, Being Put into a Care Home’: Gender, sexuality and housing/care preferences among older LGBT individuals in the UK. Health and Social Care in the Community doi: 10.1111/hsc.12265
  21. ^ Musingarimi, Primrose (2008). Housing Issues Affecting Older Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual People in the UK: A Policy Brief. London: The International Longevity Centre – UK (ILCUK).
  22. ^ Almack, Kathryn, Seymour, Jane and Bellamy, Gary (2010). ‘Exploring the Impact of Sexual Orientation on Experiences and Concerns about End of Life Care and on Bereavement for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Older People.’ Sociology, 44(5): 908-924.
  23. ^ Cook-Daniels, L. (2006). Trans Ageing. In D. Kimmel, T. Rose and S. David, S. (eds) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Ageing, pp 20-35. New York: Columbia University Press.
  24. ^ Bailey, L, (2012) Trans ageing: thoughts on a life course approach in order to better understand trans lives, in R, Ward, I, Rivers and M, Sutherland (eds) Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ageing: Biographical approaches for inclusive care and support, pp 51-66. London and Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
  25. ^ Addis, S, et. al., 2009, The health, social care and housing needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older people: A review of the literature, Health and Social Care in the Community, 17(6), 647-658.
  26. ^ Hash, K. M., & Netting, F. E. (2009). It takes a community: Older lesbians meeting social and care needs. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 21(4), 326-342.
  27. ^ Westwood, Sue (1 November 2016). "'We see it as being heterosexualised, being put into a care home': gender, sexuality and housing/care preferences among older LGB individuals in the UK". Health & Social Care in the Community. 24 (6): e155–e163. doi:10.1111/hsc.12265. PMID 26304109.
  28. ^ Price, E. (2010). Coming out to care: Gay and lesbian carers’ experiences of dementia services. Health and Social Care in the Community, 18(6), 160–168.
  29. ^ Withall, L. (2014) Dementia, Transgender And Intersex People: Do Service Providers Really Know What Their Needs Are? Melbourne: Alzheimer’s Australia.
  30. ^ Westwood, S. (2015) Dementia, women and sexuality: How the intersection of ageing, gender and sexuality magnify dementia concerns among older lesbian and bisexual women. Dementia: The International Journal of Social Research and Practice, doi: 1471301214564446.
  31. ^ Gendron, Tracey, et. al. (2013). ‘Cultural Competence Training for Healthcare Professionals Working with LGBT*\ Older Adults.’ Educational Gerontology 39(6): 454-463.
  32. ^ Fredriksen-Goldsen, K. I., et al (2014). Creating a vision for the future: Key competencies and strategies for culturally competent practice with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older adults in the health and human services. Journal of Gerontological Social Work. Advanced on-line access. doi: 10.1080/01634372.2014.890690
  33. ^ "LGBT Programming for Older Adults: A Practical Step-by-Step Guide".
  34. ^ GRAI and CHIRI (GLBTI Retirement Association Inc and Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute), 2010, Best practice guidelines: Accommodating older gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and intersex (GLBTI)people, Perth: GRAI and CHIRI.
  35. ^ Kelly, Des (10 March 2015). "LGBT older people with dementia should not be forced back into the closet". the Guardian.

Complementary references[edit]

  • Heaphy, Brian Yip, Andrew and Thompson, Debbie (2004). ‘Ageing In A Non-Heterosexual Context.’ Ageing & Society, 24(6): 881-902.
  • Heaphy, Brian (2009). ‘The Storied, Complex Lives of Older GLBT Adults; Choice and its limits in older lesbian and gay narratives of relational life.’ Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 5: 119–138.
  • Jones, Rebecca (2011). ‘Imagining bisexual futures: Positive, non-normative later life.’ Journal of Bisexuality, 11(2-3): 245-270.
  • Jones, R. & R. Ward (eds) LGBT Issues: Looking Beyond Categories: 42-55. Edinburgh: Dunedin.
  • Persson, D. I. (2009). Unique challenges of transgender aging: Implications from the literature. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 52(6), 633–646.
  • Rosenfeld, Dana (2003). The Changing of the Guard: Lesbian and Gay Elders, Identity and Social Change. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
  • Sullivan, K M, 2014, Acceptance in the Domestic Environment: The Experience of Senior Housing for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Seniors, Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 57(2-4), 235-250.
  • Traies, Jane (2012). ‘Women Like That: Older Lesbians in the UK.’ In R. Ward, I. Rivers and M. Sutherland (eds) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Ageing: Biographical Approaches for Inclusive Care and Support, pp 76–82, London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley.
  • Wathern, T, 2013, Building a sense of community: Including older LGBT in the way we develop and deliver housing with care, London: Housing Learning & Improvement Network.
  • Westwood, S. (2013) ‘My Friends are my Family’: an argument about the limitations of contemporary law's recognition of relationships in later life. Journal of Social Welfare & Family Law 35(3), 347-363.
  • Wilkens, Jill. (2015). Loneliness and Belongingness in Older Lesbians: The Role of Social Groups as “Community”. Journal of lesbian studies, 19(1), 90-101.
  • Willis, P, et al., 2014, Swimming upstream: the provision of inclusive care to older lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) adults in residential and nursing environments in Wales, Ageing & Society, DOI: 10.1017/S0144686X14001147.
  • Witten, T.M. (2015) Elder Transgender Lesbians: Exploring the Intersection of Age, Lesbian Sexual Identity, and Transgender Identity, Journal of Lesbian Studies, 19(1), 73-89.
  • Hughes, Anne K.; Harold, Rena D.; Boyer, Janet M. (2011). "Awareness of LGBT Aging Issues Among Aging Services Network Providers". Journal of Gerontological Social Work. 54 (7): 659–677. doi:10.1080/01634372.2011.585392.
  • Brown, Maria T. (2009). "LGBT aging and rhetorical silence". Sexuality Research and Social Policy. 6 (4): 65–78. doi:10.1525/srsp.2009.6.4.65.
  • Kimmel, Douglas C.; Rose, Tara; David, Steven (2006). Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Aging: Research and Clinical Perspectives. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-13618-1.
  • Porter, Kristen E.; Krinsky, Lisa (2014). "Do LGBT Aging Trainings Effectuate Positive Change in Mainstream Elder Service Providers?". Journal of Homosexuality. 61 (1): 197–216. doi:10.1080/00918369.2013.835618.
  • Fredriksen Goldsen, Karen; de Vries, Brian (2019). "Global Aging With Pride: Two-Part Special Issue on International Perspectives on LGBT Aging". The International Journal of Aging and Human Development. 88 (4): 315–324.