Q&A with Nii-Quartelai Quartey, AARP National LGBT Liaison, on Landmark LGBT Survey

Why did AARP do this Survey?

In 2016, we conducted a member opinion survey that for the first time asked people about their sexual identity and gender identity. Based on that survey, we estimated that 900,000 of our nearly 38 million members identify as LGBT. This insight has inspired us to learn more about LGBT communities and find out how AARP can help to address the unmet needs of older LGBT adults. Through this study, we discovered that that we could make the biggest difference in the lives of older LGBT adults in the areas of LGBT-welcoming long-term care, affordable housing and social isolation.

With regards to long-term care (LTC) and housing, did you see much difference between what LGBT people are concerned about, based on their geographic location?

Contrary to popular belief, we found that older LGBT adults live in communities of all sizes in cities, towns, suburbs and rural areas, even within more conservative regions of the country. In fact, we found that older LGBT adults living in small cities, towns and rural areas had significantly less access to LGBT health and senior services when compared to their counterparts living in cities. However, even though many older LGBT adults live in rural areas, 83 percent of respondents consider their community to be at least somewhat LGBT-friendly, suggesting that older LGBT adults seek out affirming communities in which to settle even if the larger surrounding area may not be.

Can you explain more about the added worries that African-Americans and Latinos who are LGBT have about LTC?

Black and Latino LGBT adults have the greatest concern about future family and social supports, and greater worry about potential abuse in LTC facilities because their concerns are compounded by the discrimination they experience related to their age, racial identity, sexual orientation and gender identity. This presents an opportunity for AARP to consider the unique challenges of older LGBT adults of color, as well as the challenges older adults experience in long-term care and assisted living facilities.

What are some of the unique challenges and concerns that older adults in the ‘gender expansive’ community face?

Gender expansive is inclusive, but not limited to transgender people. Gender expansive includes trans women, transgender, trans men, non-binary, gender fluid, genderqueer, intersex, questioning, agender, and asexual identities.

One of most unique challenges to the gender expansive community is how strongly they experience and fear discrimination, much more so than lesbian, gay, or bisexual people. This might be due, in part, to the fact that most gender expansive people live outside of big cities where acceptance and tolerance of different sexual orientations and gender identities is often lacking or outright hostile. Another prominent issue within the gender expansive community is social isolation, with most of their social support networks (friends, family, etc.) being smaller than other LGB groups. However, gender expansive adults have a higher level of support from online communities (30 percent) compared to older LGB adults.

Anything that really surprised you in this survey?

One of the biggest surprises was the high awareness of AARP among survey respondents. However, these same adults were far less aware of the LGBT-specific tools and resources available through AARP. I’m thrilled to say that we’re working hard here at AARP to produce more resources for our LGBT members.

How will you use the data in this report?

This research has presented a golden opportunity to strengthen AARP’s readiness to address the forces impacting the health security, financial security, and personal fulfillment of older LGBT adults. This year, we are working with our caregiving and livable community initiatives to begin to address the unmet needs of older LGBT adults nationwide.

Any closing remarks?

This research project is only the beginning of what the AARP Multicultural Leadership hopes to be—a powerful demonstration of real possibilities. I am so proud that our organization was able to achieve this milestone and more thrilled to work with partners like SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders), Lambda Legal, The Victory Fund Institute, Center for Black Equity, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals, and the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Working with these dynamic organizations offers us the insights and access into diverse LGBT communities nationwide.