Poster Presentation - Canadian Association on Gerontology 44th Annual Conference, Calgary 2015

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Rural lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) aging: Exploring the chasm in the literature

Robert Beringer (2015)

Why is rural LGBT aging different from aging in the non-LGBT community?

First and foremost, LGBT aging in general, is different because today's LGBT population of seniors grew up in a dramatically different society. Defining seniors as 65+ years of age, it is likely that many of these older adults "came out" at a time when homosexuality was both illegal and still considered to be a mental illness (Orel & Fruhauf, 2015). Further, many worked at time when discovery of sexual orientation could result in loss of a job. As such LGBT seniors today have likely experienced stigma and discrimination over the life-course (de Vries, 2015; Meyer, 2003).. While many LGBT seniors have enjoyed some of the progress made in regards to the advancement of human rights and inclusion, there is still much work to be done. In the present day many formal organizations have employed the blanket term "inclusive to all" but this has not adequately served the LGBT population. As a result, LGBT seniors may experience barriers to the health and social care (MetLife, 2010; SAGE, 2011).

The purpose of the review was to explore literature pertaining to LGBT aging in rural communities and to identify gaps in the literature.

Searches were conducted using the EBSCO Host online reference system. To ensure the maximum number of results the ‘select all’ function was chosen and search terms describing the population lgbt (glbt, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender were also used) were combined with aging and rural.

A separate search was conducted for each of the six population descriptors and a table was constructed to itemize the results and identify duplicates. In total, 37 papers concerned with LGBT rural aging were identified for review.

Annotations were written for each paper describing methods and results. Three themes emerged from the annotations. First, that sample sizes from research done in Canada were typically small. Second, that results were rarely contrasted directly with rural aging research in heterosexual populations. Third, that most of the re-search has been conducted in the U.S. where a major concern revolves around access to healthcare and insurance coverage. As such, these results cannot be generalized to other jurisdictions.

Research concerned with LGBT rural aging is scant. Future LGBT research should therefore be directed toward addressing the needs and concerns of this population as they face the challenges of aging in rural communities


de Vries, B. (2015). Stigma and LGBT aging: Negative and positive marginality. In N.A. Orel & C.A. Fruhauf (Eds.), The Lives of LGBT Older Adults (pp.55-72). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

MetLife Mature Market Institute. (2010). Still out, still aging. Westport, CT: MetLife Mature Market Institute.

Meyer, I.H. (2003). Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: Conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 129(5), 674-697. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.129.5.674

Orel, N.A., & Fruhauf, C.A. (2015). The intersection of culture, family, and individual aspects: A guiding model for LGBT older adults. In N.A. Orel & C.A. Fruhauf (Eds.), The Lives of LGBT Older Adults (p.3-24). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

SAGE (2011). LGBT older adults in long-term care facilities: Stories from the field.

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