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New Data Highlights Experiences of Local LGBTQ+ Older Adults

Survey findings will inform future priorities, programs, and policy for LGBTQ+ adults ages 50 and older in Santa Clara County

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – Although LGBTQ+ older adults in Santa Clara County are resilient with strong support systems, a new survey suggests many also experience discrimination, loneliness, and significant barriers to health and aging-related services.

The County of Santa Clara’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs spearheaded the survey to address a gap in data on local LGBTQ+ older adults needed to inform priorities, programs, and policy to support this underserved population. Results of this project – one of the largest surveys of this community in the nation – will be shared with the community at an upcoming virtual town hall, alongside community members sharing their lived experiences and public input regarding priorities. Community members and the media are invited to attend the virtual Town Hall. Registration is required.

               LGBTQ+ Older Adults in Santa Clara County Town Hall

               Wednesday, November 17, at 5:00-6:30 pm


“The vision, ever since we first presented this project to the Board of Supervisors in 2019, was always about amplifying the voices of LGBTQ+ older adults, who are a vibrant segment of our community in Santa Clara County,” said Maribel Martínez, Program Manager for the County’s Division of Equity and Social Justice. “The strong response we received to the survey, even during a pandemic, further illustrates that community wants to be heard. It is an exciting moment to be able to share this dynamic local data.”

Some of the survey’s most notable findings include:

  • More than 4 out of 10 had been discriminated against or treated unfairly within the past 24 months due to being perceived as LGBTQ+.
  • Almost one-fifth lived alone and experienced high levels of loneliness.
  • Despite the fact that two-thirds completed some college or more, 67% were living in poverty.
  • More than half (51%) of participants reported having a disability.
  • Approximately one-quarter of the LGBTQ+ older adult participants had not received the COVID-19 vaccine, and many experienced significant barriers in accessing health and aging related services.

“These health and aging disparities reflect the historical and social context of their lives, and the serious adversity they have encountered can jeopardize their health and their willingness to seek services in old age,” said Dr. Karen Fredriksen Goldsen, Project Principal. “The higher rates of aging and health disparities among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender and sexual and gender diverse older adults is a major concern for public health. Effective public policy is driven by accurate data. This study paints a vivid picture of the lives of LGBTQ+ older adults, who face major and unique challenges accessing competent services and coping with the results from a lifetime of stigma.”

Preliminary findings suggest that transgender, LGBTQ+ older adults of color, and those with low incomes in particular have elevated risks of adversity, heightened obstacles to securing aging and health related care, and increased experiences of negative health and aging-related outcomes. “Although the term ‘LGBT' is often used in research, findings from this study illuminate that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and sexual and gender diverse older adults are in fact distinct groups, often with unique experiences and barriers faced,” explained Dr. Fredriksen Goldsen.

There is good news as well: “LGBTQ+ older adults are resilient and living their lives and building their communities,” Dr. Fredriksen Goldsen noted. More than half of respondents received the social and emotional support they needed, and three-quarters were satisfied with their lives. In addition, about one-quarter gave back to their communities by volunteering.

“This survey is a significant milestone and fundamental towards better understanding our local LGBTQ+ older adult communities and their experiences, strengths, and challenges. However, it is one step in an ongoing effort,” shared Daniel Moretti, Program Manager for the County’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs. “Operationalizing the data and responding to the findings through action within current and future programming and policy is pivotal to develop the most responsive and supportive resources for LGBTQ+ older adults in Santa Clara County to thrive.”

The survey, part of the LGBTQ+ Older Adults in Santa Clara County Project, was recently completed and received responses from 3,218 community members. The findings shed new light on the aging needs, resilience, gaps in services, and impacts of COVID-19 on LGBTQ+ adults ages 50 and older in Santa Clara County. The confidential and anonymous survey was available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, and Vietnamese and could be completed online, by paper, and through the phone.

Dr. Fredriksen Goldsen is a nationally and internationally recognized scholar addressing equity and the intersections of health disparities, longevity, and well-being in resilient at-risk and underserved communities, including LGBTQ+ older adults and their caregivers. The project has been implemented in collaboration with more than 20 local community organizations, agencies, and government offices.

Collaborating local community organizations, agencies, and government offices include: AARP California; African American Community Service Agency; Avenidas Rainbow Collective; BAYMEC Community Foundation; Billy DeFrank LGBTQ+ Community Center; City of San José - Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services; County of Santa Clara Department of Aging and Adult Services; Gilroy Senior Center; Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley; LGBTQ Wellness; County of Santa Clara Supervisors Mike Wasserman (District 1), Cindy Chavez (District 2), Otto Lee (District 3), Susan Ellenberg (District 4), and Joe Simitian (District 5); PACE Clinic; Santa Clara Family Health Plan; Saratoga Area Senior Coordinating Council; Santa Clara County Public Health Department; Santa Clara County Getting to Zero; Santa Clara County Senior Care Commission; Sourcewise; The Health Trust; and The Q Corner, a program of the County of Santa Clara Behavioral Health Services Department.


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The County of Santa Clara government serves a diverse, multi-cultural population of 1.9 million residents in Santa Clara County, California, making it more populous than 14 states in the U.S. The County provides essential services to its residents, including public health protection, environmental stewardship, medical services through the County of Santa Clara Health System, child and adult protection services, homelessness prevention and solutions, roads, park services, libraries, emergency response to disasters, protection of minority communities and those under threat, access to a fair criminal justice system, and many other public benefits.

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Media Contacts: Karen Fredriksen Goldsen, PhD., Principal, Goldsen Consulting, (206) 714-7419, [email protected]; Daniel Moretti, Program Manager, County of Santa Clara Office of LGBTQ Affairs, (408) 678-2904, [email protected]


Posted: November 15, 2021​