The LGBT Older Adult Project, a joint initiative of the School of Social Work and the Marjorie K. Unterberg School of Nursing and Health Studies, seeks to improve the quality of life of older LGBT adults through education and awareness programs, advocacy, and providing social activities for LGBT older adults, caregivers and their friends. The project accomplishes these goals not by replicating existing services available through mainstream agencies but through the provision of technical assistance and training opportunities and by advocating for legislation which positively impacts the lives of older LGBT adults.
This project developed out of the research interests of Dr. Bradley and Dr. Kelly in the area of aging. The question arose is aging the same for everyone? To determine the answer to that question, a needs assessment was done with providers and consumers during the academic year 2011-2012. From the information gained from that initial data, the research question was refined to investigate health disparities among older LGBT adults and address the issue of cultural competency with providers. All research was conducted with Dr. Bradley and Dr. Kelly as principal investigators but aided by student interns and student volunteers who assisted with literature searches as well as in conducting focus groups and individual interviews. This summer, again with student help, that data is being analyzed in hopes of publishing several articles. The students who are assisting will be co-authors.
From 2012 through 2013, a training curriculum was developed to assist providers to be more aware of the needs of LGBT older adults and how to make their agencies more “gay friendly.” Beginning in the Fall of 2013 through the spring of 2015, free cultural competency trainings were provided to home health care providers, hospitals, nursing homes , assisted living facilities and sociology, psychology, human services and social work classes at Brookdale Community College, Stockton University, and Monmouth University. To date the project has conducted approximately 105 trainings with workshop sizes varying from 5 people to 35 people in attendance. The community and college trainings have been provided by MSW student interns assigned to the project. The faculty coordinators have presented 4 peer reviewed workshops at regional, state and local conferences.
A Buddy program component was developed as part of the project by Dr. Kelly and health studies students. That component of the project has trained about 25 “buddies” to provide companionship to shut in older LGBT adults.
Moving forward with the project, we are looking to develop affiliations with local LGBT community centers so as to be able house services in a manner that makes access easier for community members.