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Are you reaching all populations in need of your services? There are an estimated 8 million LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) aging and disabled persons in the United States and the LGBT population aged 65+ is expected to double in size over the next several decades. Most LGBT older adults have experienced various forms of discrimination throughout their lives, and many are reluctant to openly identify themselves as LGBT when they need help. In addition, many have limited assistance and support from biological family members.

On July 10, 2012, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Aging, issued new guidance on the definition of the term greatest social need in the Older Americans Act to include “individuals isolated due to sexual orientation or gender identity.” The federal Administration for Community Living—which works to keep older adults living as independently as possible—recently concluded that LGBT older adults are in need of targeted outreach for services.  

To enable aging units to provide culturally-competent services to the LGBT population, we offer these pointers on where to find training and examples of aging and disability resource centers that have successfully implemented these culturally-competent services.

Wisconsin county and tribal aging units can get assistance by contacting GWAAR’s LGBT services lead, Jayne Mullins.

Education and Training

There are a variety of Web-based and in-person staff trainings available through the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging. The most popular training for aging units is “Improving Aging Services for LGBT Older Adults – Level 1 (4 hours).”

As another preliminary step, the documentary Gen Silent—the critically-acclaimed documentary from the film maker Stu Maddux—highlights six LGBT seniors—capturing their day-to-day lives, showing the effects of discrimination over a lifetime.

WI Dept. of Health Services Webpage on LGBT Health/Aging

Culturally-Competent Care and Training

The following is available:

  • Short video on why an agency should request a cultural competency training
  • Short clip from Gen Silent (fear of hostile homecare workers)
  • Practical guide to collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Practical guide to creating welcoming agencies

Building Respect for LGBT Older Adults

A tool intended to foster respect and provide an introduction to LGBT aging for long-term care and other aging service providers. The tool is divided into 6 modules, each approximately 10 minutes long. It is recommended that the modules be viewed in order and they do not need to be watched all at once.

Creating a Trans-Welcoming Environment

Creating a trans-welcoming environment involves more than an agency checking off boxes on a cultural competency checklist. The webinar reviews key transgender-specific 2011 research data highlighting why transgender victims/survivors are hesitant to access services and how victim service agencies can begin to address these concerns through creating a more trans-accessible and respectful environment. Tangible and intangible practical details are discussed—including common components such as policies, paperwork, and procedures. Stories and examples emphasize the pros and cons of individual action steps, as well as best practices.

PDF of the Presentation

Best Practices

ADRC of Kenosha County

Like many minority groups, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) older adults have unique needs and barriers to accessing services which put them at greater risk for poor health outcomes and unmet long-term care needs. The ADRC formed a small workgroup during summer 2012 with the intention to improve competency in serving the LGBT population.  

  • In October 2012 they offered a staff training, which they found through the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging. The training is free for ADRC staff.
  • Since that time, they have offered a community showing of Gen Silent, and have reviewed and updated various forms to create culturally-competent language.
  • Resource kiosk in the lobby has specific LGBT resources, labeled with the rainbow flag.
  • Recruited an LGBT community member to serve on the ADRC Board.
  • Have a sign in their lobby and information on their Website that states what consumers can expect when visiting the ADRC that says:
    • We will listen.
    • We will treat you with courtesy and respect.
    • We will provide fair and correct information.
    • We will help you to understand and access services or programs for which you may be eligible.
    • We will keep your personal information private.
    • We will be welcoming to all of our customers regardless of age, race or ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, nationality, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
    • We will respond to any complaint quickly and work to resolve it.

For more information, contact:
Helen Sampson, LCSW

Quality Specialist, ADRC of Kenosha County
(262) 605-6614

ADRC of Brown County

“We began this journey with two primary goals in mind. First and foremost was to become a more inclusive and welcoming agency for the LGBT community. Second, and a by-product of the first, was to network and partner with both LGBT groups and long-term care entities, to promote a more inclusive and welcoming community as a whole. These are a few examples of steps taken to help us move toward this goal:

  • Training: Provided culturally-competent trainings that enhanced staff awareness and understanding of the LGBT population (National Resource Center on LGBT Aging training).  
  • Internal Agency Systems: Review and explore changes to intake forms and added non-discriminatory statement to our Website. 
  • Networking/Outreach: Work with local open and affirming churches such as United Church of Christ and Unitarian Churches; ADRC presentations for local LGBT support groups; partner with groups such as UW-Green Bay Pride Center to promote and organize events that educate and build awareness around the LGBT population and the challenges with regard to long-term care needs (ADRC sponsored showing of critically-acclaimed film Gen Silent and follow-up training with local partners to discuss the film and challenges faced by the LGBT community).

What we learned is that it isn’t enough that our staff be culturally-competent. We need to be present and visible in the LGBT community so they see that we are warm and welcoming, open, and inclusive. We stand committed to working closely with the LBGT community, local agencies, and community members to help create a warm and welcoming atmosphere for all.”      

For more information, contact:
Sheri Mealy, I & A Specialist 
Jim Sweeney, I & A Specialist
(920) 448-4300