Are LGBTQ seniors dying of loneliness? It’s possible, research says

I’ve long noted how the LGBTQ Community is a community of young people.  That there is little or no place for elders.

Part of that was due to how much the post-Stonewall Gay Liberation Movement was focused on sex.

Those LGBT folks in the faith communities sought to build institutions that paralleled straight religious communities.

For a time in the 1970s lesbians seemed to be doing the same.

The Internet is good at creating virtual aka illusionary  communities but isn’t a replacement for face to face contact.

Political activism isn’t the same as a community.  Pride Day comes closer but that is on a mega scale and only one weekend a year.

Some of us who are married find we aren’t that different from straight couples our age with whom we share common interests.

I’m back in contact with my brother and his family.  My cousins too.  My brother lives in a small town and maybe it is easier to have that sort of intimacy in smaller towns, things like community dinners and other events.

I don’t know.  But I do know there are many LGBT elders who live lives of crushing loneliness.

From The Seattle Times:

April 11, 2019

“At least someone knows I’m alive.”

Karen Fredriksen Goldsen read that line on a survey form and knew she was onto something. For the past 10 years, the University of Washington professor of social work and researcher has been conducting the first, national longitudinal study of aging members of the LGBTQ community called Aging with Pride.

Two years ago, survey data showed that older, married LGBTQ adults were happier and healthier than their single peers.

Fredriksen Goldsen’s survey showed that more than one-third of respondents were single and isolating themselves — so much so that their lives might be in danger.

“Social isolation is a public health issue,” said Fredriksen Goldsen, who is also director of the Healthy Generations Hartford Center of Excellence at the UW. Research has shown that social isolation puts people at a greater risk of heart disease, dementia and memory loss, and premature mortality. She compared it to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Last month, Fredriksen Goldsen announced plans for an April 25 lecture at the Frye Museum Auditorium called “Linking Lives: Disrupting the Cycle of Social Isolation.” It sold out in a day, which she takes to mean that loneliness isn’t just an LGBTQ problem.

“What we learn from this population is similar to all other adults,” Fredriksen Goldsen said. “And I’m glad people are interested because learning about these things can be the first step to making change.”

The problem of social isolation is intensified for marginalized populations like the LGBTQ community, whose older members have experienced social exclusion in less tolerant times and places; couldn’t get married until several years ago; may have been discouraged from parenting, and couldn’t always speak freely about their relationships.

Life has prepared them to keep to themselves.

All seniors are at risk for isolation and loneliness, but it is worse for LGBTQ people, especially as they age. Perhaps they have to move to a retirement or assisted-living community, Fredriksen Goldsen said. Rather than expose who they are, some slip back into the closet and close the door behind them.

This may make them self-reliant, she said. “But that also makes you vulnerable. It’s a barrier to asking for help.”

For the past decade, Fredriksen Goldsen has surveyed 2,450 LGBTQ people between the ages of 50 and 102 on an every-other-year basis.

“They want to share their life experience in order to improve aging and lifestyle in this community,” she said.

That’s how she discovered that older, married LGBTQ adults experience better physical and mental health, more social support and greater financial resources than those who were single. Her findings made international news.

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