Documenting the sexuality education needs of LGBTQ+ older adults

By Lee F. Carson, MSW, LSW

What do you think are the sexuality education needs for older lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer+ (LGBTQ+) adults in Philadelphia? Chances are there is no one place you can point to that has documented this need in the past decade or more. The Philadelphia Area Sexual Health Initiative (PASHI), a department within the Health Promotion Services Division of Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) seeks to address this gap. PHMC/PASHI conceptualized this project in 2021 and received initial funding from The Delaware Valley Legacy Fund and the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund, along with supplemental funding from co-sponsoring organizations Bebashi, The COLOURS Organization, Philadelphia Black Pride, Mazzoni Center, and Resources for Human Development.

This new project, called the LGBTQ 50+ Sexuality Project, is being led by myself and my team in collaboration with a diverse advisory board of LGBTQ+ older adults. The goal of the project is to collect data on the educational needs of LGBTQ+ older adults (ages 50 and older) as it relates to sexuality and understand contextual factors to life satisfaction. We seek to have 75 respondents complete the survey. After the results of the survey are tabulated, the project team, along with assistance from the advisory board will develop educational products to address some of the most pressing informational needs identified by respondents. These products may be in the form of a workshop, a brochure or other document that older adults can access electronically or in physical form to help increase their knowledge in that area of sexuality.

The survey includes questions that touch on a variety of knowledge and life experience topics such as intimacy and social connection, sexual orientation and gender identity, body image, experiences with healthcare providers and sexual health, dating and relationships, the effects of Covid-19 and questions that will help us understand what ways are best for participants to receive educational information and what kinds of accommodations they require. We plan for the survey to primarily be completed online and will work with community-based organizations to provide access to persons who do not have Internet where they live and will also have paper copies if needed. Respondents will receive compensation for completing the survey. This is a tremendous opportunity to collect information on an area of wellness that is often neglected when it comes to older adults. Sexuality is a back burner topic for most medical and social services providers, often deprioritized, particularly as adults get into their 60s and beyond. We hope this project will provide information that will help providers understand the need for them to make space in their work with older adults for discussions of sexuality, so that patients/clients are treated more holistically, leading to a higher quality of life satisfaction. Once the data is collected and analyzed, a report will be created and available for public access. Once it is available, we encourage you to use the data collected to advocate for service expansion at organizational, city, state and federal levels that will help meet the varied needs identified by respondents. We anticipate the report will be ready by the fall of 2022. If you are interested in learning more about this project, participating in the survey or would like to be contacted when the report is ready for release, you can email [email protected] for information.

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