I was pleased to be able to attend and present last week at Aging in America, the nation’s largest multi-disciplinary conference on aging issues, which this year was held in the nation’s capital. I attended a number of great sessions on topics such as cultural competence in aging services, the experiences of transgender people at mid-life, improving responses to issues of intimacy and sexuality in long-term care settings, and how the Affordable Care Act benefits multicultural elders. There was an incredible track of LGBT aging programming at this year’s conference, with more than a dozen LGBT-focused workshops.
I was privileged to join Karen Fredriksen-Golden of the University of Washington School of Social Work and Loree Cook-Daniels of FORGE Transgender Aging Network for a panel on what some of the most recent transgender survey research can tell us about trans older adults. In addition to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, we discussed the recent Aging and Health Report on LGBT older adults, surveys by FORGE on sexuality and sexual violence among older adults, and research documented in the new book The Lives of Transgender People.
We discussed intriguing and potentially illuminating findings such as high levels of past military service and of reported sexual abuse among this population, as well as levels of reported discrimination that are lower than those reported by younger trans people but higher than those reported by non-trans LGB elders. We also discussed the possible limitations of existing research – for example, the fact that in most surveys so far older survey respondents are much less demographically diverse than younger ones – and the possible implications for serving this population. We were fortunate enough to have a couple of folks in attendance, Tarynn Witten of Virginia Commonwealth University and Abel Knochel of Augsburg School of Social Work, who have done their own path-breaking research on trans older adults.
It was a fascinating discussion, the kind we need much more of. I’m looking forward to outlining more about what we know about the lives and needs of transgender older adults and what government, other institutions and communities can do to support them in a report from NCTE and SAGE that’s due out this summer.