A new center aimed at tackling loneliness for LGBTI seniors has opened its doors in Seattle.
GenPride center was founded by Karen Fredriksen Goldsen, a researcher who has devoted the past ten years to survey LGBTI aging people.
Goldsen has conducted the first, national longitudinal study of LGBTI aging members of the community called Aging with Pride.
Married LGBTI people happier than singles
She has surveyed 2,450 LGBTI people aged 50-102 on an every-other-year basis.
Her study has shown that American married or partnered LGBTI seniors are happier than their single peers.
Fredriksen Goldsen’s survey showed that more than one-third of respondents were single and isolating themselves. This isolation is so prevalent their lives might be in danger, the study highlights.
Greater health risk
The researcher has also pointed out the impact that loneliness has on people’s health.
A study has shown that social isolation puts people at a greater risk of heart diseases, dementia and memory loss. This can result in premature mortality.
Fredriksen Goldsen compared loneliness to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. She also pointed out it is an issue affecting all seniors, not just LGBTI people.
‘What we learn from this population is similar to all other adults,’ Fredriksen Goldsen told The Seattle Times.
‘And I’m glad people are interested because learning about these things can be the first step to making change.’
Loneliness is worse for marginalized groups
Fredriksen Goldsen, however, explained that the problem of social isolation intensifies for marginalized groups, such as those identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans.
There are several reasons for this. LGBTI people couldn’t legally marry up until a few years ago in many countries; many still can’t.
Moreover, they can be discouraged from parenting and might not be open about their sexuality or gender identity.
‘They want to share their life experience in order to improve aging and lifestyle in this community,’ she said.
Two years later that first astonishing result, Fredriksen Goldsen has found that more than 55% of LGBTI elders live alone.
64% have experienced discrimination at least three times in their lives. And more than 25% reported being threatened at work.
The center for LGBTI seniors
That’s how Friedriksen Goldsen came up with the idea of GenPride center.
‘I want to help build an elder-friendly Seattle’ Fredriksen Goldsen said.
‘It’s not just LGBTI, it’s all elders. We have to think about cross-generational interventions and solutions, and demonstrate that elders are an important resource.’