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    First-Ever Statewide Survey of Mid-Life and Older LGBTQ+ Californians Will Increase Visibility, Focus Resources

    By David Lindeman, PhD–

    Older LGBTQ+ residents of California are about to benefit from the launch of a statewide survey that will highlight the challenges and experiences of this rapidly growing segment of California’s population. The LGBTQ+ California statewide survey, led by the California Department of Aging (CDA) in collaboration with various research partners and community organizations, marks a monumental stride in understanding and addressing the unique needs of LGBTQ+ older adults.

    This initiative will shed new information on the needs and services for LGBTQ+ older adults, and it highlight the state’s commitment to inclusivity and equity in aging policies. As Dr. Kathleen Sullivan, Executive Director of Openhouse, emphasizes, the importance of this survey “is not just about numbers; it’s about the stories behind these numbers. Understanding the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ older adults is essential for providing effective support and services.”

    Mid-life and older LGBTQ+ Californians belong to a generation that has navigated immense challenges, including stigma and discrimination, alongside their contributions to the civil rights movement for LGBTQ+ people. Despite their significant role in the state’s history and communities, there is a lack of comprehensive data on their aging experiences. This gap in knowledge has far-reaching implications, as seen in studies like Dr. Marcy Adelman’s COVID-19 study of LGBTQ+ older adults in San Francisco, which indicated heightened rates of isolation, depression, and suicidal ideation, and highlighted the urgent need for more affordable and accessible LGBTQ+ culturally competent mental health services.

    The intent of the survey is to identify the range and depth of the unique challenges encountered by LGBTQ+ older adults that significantly impact quality of life, including social isolation and loneliness, health disparities, economic insecurity, housing insecurity, and a lack of tailored services, among others. This initiative is not only groundbreaking in its scope but also vital in its aim to increase visibility, focus resources, and improve the health, economic status, and overall well-being of the LGBTQ+ community.

    The California Department of Aging’s involvement in developing this survey is pivotal in addressing these challenges. The department’s support for the survey aligns with the goals of the California Master Plan on Aging, which emphasizes equity and inclusivity. By recognizing the unique experiences of LGBTQ+ communities, the CDA is setting a standard for other states to follow.

    The survey will provide crucial baseline data to inform state policies and programs, ensuring that the specific needs of LGBTQ+ mid-life and older adults are not overshadowed by more generalized aging research. The survey is designed to be comprehensive and inclusive, with a particular focus on marginalized and underserved communities within the LGBTQ+ population so that it truly reflects the experiences of all individuals. The survey research team is extending a special invitation to Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), Asian Pacific Islander (API), and Hispanic communities, and those in rural areas, to ensure the survey includes a broad and representative sampling from across California’s diverse population and geography.

    Participation from all regions of California is crucial to the survey’s success. Each area has its unique social and economic landscape, which significantly influences the experiences of LGBTQ+ older adults. Comprehensive statewide participation will ensure that the survey results are reflective of the diverse experiences and needs across California. 

    The survey is expected to yield a range of deliverables, including a review of LGBTQ+ program services, a summary report of statewide and regional findings, fact sheets for older adults and providers alike, and a curated open-source data set for future research. These resources will be instrumental in identifying priorities for legislative action and CDA programs, improving access to LGBTQ+ affirming medical and social services, and developing policy recommendations for the betterment of LGBTQ+ older adults. 

    Dr. Annesa Flentje, lead researcher for the survey from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), reinforces that “the health disparities and unique challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ older community require our immediate attention. This survey is a vital tool in addressing these issues head-on.”

    California’s initiative in launching this statewide survey has garnered praise from various quarters. It reflects the state’s progressive and inclusive stance, serving as a model for other states in the nation. By prioritizing the needs of LGBTQ+ older adults, California is leading the way in ensuring that aging policies are inclusive and equitable. The LGBTQ+ California statewide survey is more than just a research project; it is a testament to the state’s commitment to its diverse population. By addressing the specific needs of LGBTQ+ mid-life and older adults, this survey paves the way for more informed policies and better services.

    This survey not only represents a significant step towards inclusivity and equity in aging services, but also serves as a beacon of hope for LGBTQ+ older adults in California, assuring them that their voices are heard, their challenges are acknowledged, and their well-being is a priority. The survey represents an unprecedented effort to shine a light on a population that has remained in the shadows for too long, not only through the collection of data, but by giving a voice to those who have been historically underrepresented. It is not only groundbreaking in its scope but also vital in its aim to increase visibility, focus resources, and improve the health, economic status, and overall well-being of LGBTQ+ Californians.

    Opportunities for Participation and Community Involvement

    The statewide survey, LGBTQIA+ Older Adults in California: From Challenges to Resilience, is being distributed by a statewide coalition of organizations serving LGBTQ+ older adults, and is being coordinated by Openhouse. The coalition welcomes all organizations and key stakeholders to join in the vital role of disseminating information about the survey in order to contact the broadest possible audience to ensure that the survey reaches a diverse group of respondents, making the data more representative and reliable. 

    Individuals wishing to complete the survey may participate through the following link:

    David Lindeman, PhD, is the Executive Director of CITRIS Health, Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society and the Banatao Institute (CITRIS), UC Berkeley, and is the Director of the Center for Technology and Aging. Dr. Lindeman has worked in the fields of healthcare and long-term care for over 40 years as a researcher and gerontologist, and currently focuses on technology-enabled healthcare solutions ranging from wellness to complex chronic conditions. Dr. Lindeman serves as an advisor to foundations, government agencies, start-ups, businesses, and venture firms, and currently serves as Vice-Chair for the California Commission on Aging. 

    Published on January 11, 2024