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    Your Voice, Our Community

    By Kathleen Sullivan, PhD–

    I started my career in gerontology, the study of aging, when I was in my 30s. After a career as a community organizer, campaign manager, and political consultant, I went back to school to study aging. I interviewed LGBTQIA older adults and completed the first study on how and why LGBTQIA housing environments had a positive impact on LGBTQIA residents, and more importantly, why a safe, supportive social environment is vital to LGBTQIA people as we age. What seems obvious to those I interviewed was simply not obvious to the field of gerontology. A feeling of belonging is an essential component for all of us to feel we can be our true selves.

    Some twenty-five years later I find myself in beautiful San Francisco as the Executive Director of Openhouse and working with the California Department of Aging, UC Berkeley, and UCSF to complete the first ever study of the aging experience of LGBTQIA Californians. I suggested this study to the CDA just over a year ago, and Director Susan DeMarois and her team immediately understood its importance.

    LGBTQIA elders are often invisible in the policy arena and few organizations know how to tailor a program or intervention to meet the needs of the LGBTQIA community. Our community deserves to have programs and services that meet our needs, rather than a cookie cutter approach to elder services. The baseline data from this study—From Challenges to Resilience—will be available for communities across the state to use to create policies and programs that meet the needs of their communities.

    Openhouse built a statewide coalition of organizations that provide services and programs to diverse members of our community: diverse in language, experience, gender identity, immigration status, and type of community they live in—rural, suburban, frontier, or urban. We built this coalition because the community had to be part of the study from the beginning. All our voices matter and March is the final month to have your voice heard.

    Please join those who have already taken the survey; the study link can be found at

    It is also at the study website: The survey is available in Spanish, Tagalog, Chinese, and English.

    Thank you and we will update the community with the findings once they are available.

    Kathleen M. Sullivan is the Executive Director of Openhouse, and holds a PhD in gerontology. When not working, Dr. Sullivan plays tennis, runs, and enjoys life with her wife of 25 years, Dr. Rebecca Levison.

    Published on March 21, 2024