One Equal World

First Study of Elderly LGBTQ+ People

Posted on: March 3, 2017

An elderly woman at a gay pride festival.

An elderly woman takes part in a gay pride parade.
Photo credit: Ivan Bandura at Flickr Creative Commons.

There are roughly 2.7 million Americans over the age of 50 who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, and that number of expected to hit 5 million by the year 2060. So why is it that a recent study from the University of Washington’s School of Social Work is the first to actually study this population?

The longitudinal study, called Aging with Pride: National Health, Aging, Sexuality/Gender Study, interviewed 2,450 adults aged 50 to 100. The study investigated factors such as race and ethnicity, relationship status, resiliency among HIV-positive gay and bisexual men, and transgender people who served in the military. Researchers found “higher rates of disability, cardiovascular disease, depression and social isolation” among this population, compared to other people in the same age group.

Studies like this are important because they help shed light on an underrepresented population. While the LGBTQ+ rights movement has scored some victories in recent years, the primary focus has been on the younger population. We have to remember that older people should be included in this movement as well. If anything, they should be front and center of it, considering that the previous generations paved the way for the rights we have today.

But we also need to remain cognizant of the fact that populations experience aging (and the medical, emotional, and psychological affects thereof) in different ways. That’s why it’s important to study populations through various lenses and remember that being gay and being old are not mutually exclusive. Information from studies like this allow us to better address the problems of the population in question and also allow us to better plan for the future. Everyone stands to benefit from this type of work, considering that we’re all going to get old someday.


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