Social service and health care providers often depend on client data to help them determine what type of services and treatment to provide its clients.
Unfortunately, all too-often the needs of LGBT seniors are left out of the groups’ research studies, service intake forms or client notes. This lack of data collection on the part of senior service programs deprive them of the information they need to properly understand and serve LGBT seniors. Nor can they expect elder gays to volunteer the data: If they want the information, they must collect it themselves.
On March 14, the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging of SAGE - Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders - published a data collection guide, “Inclusive Questions for Older Adults: A Practical Guide to Collecting Data on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” to help providers collect the information they need to understand and serve LGBT older adults.
According to Hillary Meyer, Director of the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, “We created this guide to meet the specific needs of aging providers who are grappling with how mainstream aging organizations can better collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity. And they want to do so in a way that is culturally competent and respectful. This guide gives them those tools.”
In her Introduction to the SAGE Guide, Meyer wrote, “this guide was created to help service providers ask questions about sexual orientation and gender identity in safe and respectful ways.”
Here we learn that “incorporating data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity into daily practice can be handled in a variety of ways.”
At the same time the SAGE Guide reminds us that “all providers will need to address confidentiality and privacy concerns when planning for data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity” and that “it is important to remember that sexual orientation and gender identity are two different aspects of an individual and should not be incorporated into one question.”
The authors of the SAGE Guide realize that “it is important to remember that incorporating sexual orientation and gender identity into data collection forms and processes will likely be new for both staff and clients. LGBT older adults will be more likely to self-identify when they believe they are in a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment.”
It considers “an important principle of person-centered care” the fact “that the more providers know about their individual clients, the better service they will be able to provide.”
Because of this, “training all staff on how to identify and address the needs of LGBT older people is key to making an agency inclusive… Staff members can benefit from participating in training programs with trusted and credible trainers who will enhance their knowledge and skills about LGBT older adults and their intersecting identifies of race, ethnicity and culture.”
In collecting data, senior service organizations must keep in mind the unique needs of LGBT seniors: “LGBT older people are less likely than heterosexual, and/or non-transgender elders to access mainstream aging services and providers, senior centers, meal programs, and other services because they fear discrimination or harassment if their sexual orientations or gender identities become known. . . . By creating a welcoming, safe and LGBT-affirming space — which includes asking demographic questions about sexual orientation and gender identity — service providers will be better able to provide culturally competent care and encourage honesty and trust so that clients can be their authentic selves. . . . Collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity from older adults can also help illuminate the nature of health disparities among older people, as well as where funding can be allocated to better reach LGBT elders. . . . Data collection is but one step providers can take to create inclusive and welcoming services.”
SAGE’s publication of “Inclusive Questions for LGBT Older Adults: A Practical Guide to Collecting Data on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” has received a favorable response from senior service organizations. According to Meyer, “upon announcing the availability of , we received requests for over 1,000 hard copies from service providers across the country to the point where there is now a waiting list. It has also been downloaded over 25,000 times since its release last month. Clearly providers are actively seeking this type of information.”
It’s currently available free of charge. To download the Guide online, or to request a free copy, visit lgbtagingcenter.org.