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Will Seattle Take Care Of Its LGBTQ Seniors?

The Washington legislature passed a measure banning conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth in the 2018 legislative session.
Flickr photo/sea turtle (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Seattle may be one of the country’s most progressive cities, but it falls short on services for elderly LGBTQ people, according to University of Washington researchers.

So they advise creating a new program to train health and human service providers in caring for older adults who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Karen Fredriksen-Goldensen led a UW School of Social Work study showing that older LGBTQ adults face higher risks of disability, isolation and mental distress than their heterosexual peers.

Her team surveyed 203 LGBTQ people ages 50-85 in King County and found high levels of discrimination, poverty and isolation.

Seventy percent reported having been verbally assaulted and 40 percent threatened with physical violence, Fredriksen-Goldensen said.

“We find that the victimization and discrimination is the primary predictor of poor health and aging problems,” she said.

There's also fear and mistrust when it comes to seeking care from health providers. Fredriksen-Goldensen said the study found many seniors reported being denied services or given inferior care because of discrimination.

To that end, she’s hoping to create a pilot program that would train 100 health and human service providers to better serve the needs of LGBTQ seniors.

The program would also provide support, resources and referrals for that population.

Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen is proposing the city provide $75,000 in seed money to help launch the yearlong program.

His proposal would require approval by the City Council and Mayor Ed Murray. 

The UW study is part of a larger national study looking at the health and well being of aging LGBTQ people.

Despite the negative findings, Fredriksen-Goldensen said the study found that LGBTQ seniors are resilient.

"I was surprised by the number of people who had never self-identified in terms of being an LGBT person, but they wanted to participate in our project," she said. "They want to create a legacy about their future and their life for other generations."

She says many older LGBTQ adults created supportive communities and 90 percent were satisfied with their lives.

Photo: It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! by sea turtle on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)