Being gay and getting old means a horrible, lonely, frail life…
…Well, it actually doesn’t have to but there’s a pair of studies that are making their rounds lately. Here’s the latest so let’s dismiss that one quickly.
Members of California’s aging lesbian, gay and bisexual population are more likely to suffer from certain chronic conditions, even as they wrestle with the challenges of living alone in far higher numbers than the heterosexual population, according to a new policy brief from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
Half of all gay and bisexual adult men in California between the ages of 50 and 70 are living alone, compared with 13.4 percent of heterosexual men in the same age group. And although older California lesbians and bisexual women are more likely to live with a partner or a family member than their male counterparts, more than one in four live alone, compared with one in five heterosexual women.
A lack of immediate family support may impact aging LGB adults’ ability to confront statistically higher rates of diabetes, hypertension, poor mental health, physical disability and self-assessed fair or poor health, compared with demographically similar aging heterosexual adults.
The study, which draws upon three cycles of data from the biennial California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), underscores the importance of considering these unique needs and chronic health conditions in providing health care and social services to the estimated 170,000 self-identified aging LGB adults in California — a population that will double in size over the next 20 years.
On the surface, my title for this article is exactly the picture they’re painting: If you’re LGBT and older, you’re going to live alone and according to them you can look forward to a statistical probability of diabetes, hypertension, poor mental health, and physical disability. Gee, almost makes that tag line of “live fast, die young and make a good looking corpse” words we all should have heeded right?
Here’s why I’m so quick to dismiss their study in total: see the magic sentence in the last paragraph, “The study, which draws upon three cycles of data…”. Yeah, those three cycles are 2003, 2005, and 2007. You have to really look thru their report in order to find out that little nugget (it’s toward the bottom few pages and in really fine print on the others). Data that’s eight, six and four years old respectively, is functionally irrelevant. Period. Add to that, I’m the sort of skeptic that is immediately going to question why it took as long as eight years to summarize the responses of 1000+ adults. I know beginning math students that can tabulate that in a week.
There’s too many questions in that study for me to flat out accept it on it’s face, especially since it’s purpose on every physical health point is to compare the gay community to heterosexuals. The short “conclusion” is exactly the title of this piece. If you’re gay and getting old, you’re in a heap of trouble. Add to that, they also published the same day as this study.
At a time when lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals—often referred to under the umbrella acronym LGBT—are becoming more visible in society and more socially acknowledged, clinicians and researchers are faced with incomplete information about their health status. While LGBT populations often are combined as a single entity for research and advocacy purposes, each is a distinct population group with its own specific health needs. Furthermore, the experiences of LGBT individuals are not uniform and are shaped by factors of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, geographical location, and age, any of which can have an effect on health-related concerns and needs. Researchers still have a great deal to learn and face a number of challenges in understanding the health needs of LGBT populations.
To help assess the state of the science, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) asked the IOM to evaluate current knowledge of the health status of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations; to identify research gaps and opportunities; and to outline a research agenda to help NIH focus its research in this area. The IOM finds that to advance understanding of the health needs of all LGBT individuals, researchers need more data about the demographics of these populations, improved methods for collecting and analyzing data, and an increased participation of sexual and gender minorities in research. Building a more solid evidence base for LGBT health concerns will not only benefit LGBT individuals, but also add to the repository of health information we have that pertains to all people.
The short answer on their study is this: LGBT people have a unique set of health needs, we’re not really sure what they are in total, and this needs to be studied. (On a side note, the CHIS study gave the transgender community the shaft and didn’t even include them in their research. NIH at least tried to look at a broader spectrum.
Blogs are already quick to pick up on the CHIS study and are quick to point out their conclusions as gospel, while offering their own advice.
The problem is a complicated one with several time sensitive and social variables. First, our older LGBT citizens have had to deal with a far more negative and pervasively discriminatory society. Secondly, our gay culture needs to learn how to honor and embrace our elders and thirdly, we lost a core generation of gay men who succumbed to HIV who might have been instrumental in making the older generation’s transition to their golden years easier. Our community needs to remember we all participate in the aging process and honor and support our elderly.
Ok, first off the author for that site is predominately responsible for their military and DADT articles/admonishments, so I wouldn’t be so quick to recirculate a study that needs to be fully examined rather than accepted just because it’s had a nice job done of it in Publisher. As a site that seems to exist solely for the purpose of slapping DC around on LGBT political issues, they of all people should know that you don’t accept something on it’s face just because it’s in print. “Citizen Journalists” rarely get that idea down. But, considering their first attempt to publish a health study consisted of “here’s the study, and here’s a comment on it” with no attempt to write a single word of their own, I should have gotten the idea. They don’t care or are ill equipped to deal with LGBT related health reporting.
Second, while he tries to make the point about gays embracing the elder community he doesn’t quite hit the mark. By and large, the senior community – both gay and straight – is far too disposable to the younger generation. On just the gay side of that coin, the gay senior community is largely invisible because nobody knows where they are. With a gay culture that’s driven on using clubs as a meeting place, seniors get driven away by default. They don’t have a spot to fit in and that IS our fault. When we say it’s ok for our own community to judge people based on age, looks or some totally unacceptable physical ideal then we own that mess. It’s on our side of the street and the broom and dustpan is in the corner. We’re oh-so-willing to subset ourselves into old, fat, muscles and hair and this is just fine, thanks.
I call bullshit. It’s time to sweep up our own mess and stop blaming straight society on this one when we don’t handle it any better ourselves. When we’re done predetermining a persons worth based on the crap all of us are guilty of, maybe seniors won’t be so quick to go into hiding in the first place.
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]Being gay and getting old means a horrible, lonely, frail life...,