Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

15947 The Michigan Aging Services Network Response to LGBT Aging

Friday, January 13, 2012: 9:00 AM
Penn Quarter B (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Anne K. Hughes, PhD, Assistant Professor, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Rena D. Harold, PhD, Professor and Associate Director, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Kristen Admiraal, MSW, Doctoral Student, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Background and Purpose: Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) play a crucial role in supporting older adults in the community. It is unclear whether these organizations are prepared to provide care to LGBT older adults, a growing population with needs both similar and distinct from heterosexual older adults. Studies of providers in the aging services network identified that there is very little programming for this population (Knochel, Quam, & Croghan, 2010) and little training for providers (Behney, 1994; Brotman, Ryan, & Cormier, 2003). We initiated this study to understand if, and how, aging services network providers and administrators are addressing the needs of LGBT older adults in the State of Michigan. Methods: This research project was exploratory in nature. A non-probability convenience sample was obtained from attendees at the Michigan AAA's 2010 annual conference. Data were collected via a self-administered questionnaire. The questionnaire was designed by the authors to elicit opinions about LGBT aging, to assess how prepared respondents felt their agency was to serve LGBT older adults, to learn about any efforts within their organizations to meet the needs of this population, and to understand the knowledge participants had of the needs of LGBT older adults in several domains. Responses were collected from 87 participants, or 29% of conference attendees, and descriptive analysis was conducted using SPSS frequencies and descriptives. Results: The sample was primarily female, White, and heterosexual. Average age was 46, ranging from 24 to 71 years. Approximately two-thirds of the sample worked at a AAA; one-third worked in other aging services. Most (90.6%) rated themselves very or somewhat comfortable in working with LGBT individuals. They considered themselves to be most comfortable with their level of knowledge in the domains of Medicare/Medicaid issues, medical concerns, and barriers to service. Many said they were less knowledgeable about the legal and financial issues facing this population. Fifty participants (63.3%) indicated they would like training about the needs of older LGBT persons, while 29 (36.7%) did not want training. Seventy-five percent of respondents indicated that there were no activities or efforts within their agency to address the needs of older LGBT individuals. Agencies were involved in very little outreach (15%) to the community, and only a handful of agencies (8%) had materials available that acknowledge LGBT aging issues. Reported challenges to service delivery included: living in a rural area, no apparent LGBT services in the area, the conservative nature of their community, and the invisibility of the aging LGBT community. Conclusions and Implications: Our results indicate that in spite of relatively positive attitudes of the individuals at MI AAA's, LGBT aging is not a priority for agencies. The vast majority of agencies are not offering any services or activities specifically for LGBT older adults, and few are planning to do so in the future. Providers of aging services in Michigan and many other states need the support of agencies and policies to effectively serve this population. These results are illustrative of the need to get LGBT aging on statewide agendas.