November 15, 2012

Contact: Lulu Todorov (215.825.8202 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Survey Examines Health Care Experiences and Needs of LGBT Elders in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA— Last month, researchers at Public Health Management Corporation’s (PHMC) Research and Evaluation Group hosted a town hall meeting in the heart of Philadelphia’s Gayborhood about a recent study titled “Assessment of Health Needs of LGBT Older Adults in Philadelphia”. The study and discussion focused on the unique health care issues impacting LGBT older adults. Among other findings, the study revealed that 39% of study participants reported negative experiences with health care providers. Two-thirds of those reporting a negative experience attributed this mistreatment to their sexual orientation or gender presentation or identity.

“There was a great deal of interest from the LGBT community about our study,” says research associate Lee Carson, who worked on the assessment project and presented the results at the town hall. “We wanted to share our findings with care providers and the community, keep them engaged in conversation and get recommendations from them.” The release of the study’s results coincides with acceptance of Pennsylvania’s 2012-2016 State Plan on Aging by the US Administration on Aging and the Administration for Community Living, which included input from PHMC researchers on LGBT elder issues.

The study, funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund, assessed the health care experiences and needs of LGBT older adults in Philadelphia, documented barriers to accessing health care and recommended screenings. It also explored LGBT older adults’ plans and concerns for the future, including housing and long-term care, and developed policy recommendations to be shared with government agencies and organizations providing services to older adults. “The study found that a significant number of participants reported that they delayed or were unable to obtain medications, dental care and medical care because of insurance and other factors,” says Carson. “These are things providers need to know.”

The study started with a series of focus groups and individual interviews, which helped to inform the development of the survey instrument. In addition to the qualitative data, the study includes data from 215 self-administered surveys of persons 55 or older living in the Philadelphia area who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender, or reported a same-sex partner in the past 12 months. All data collection procedures and instruments were developed in collaboration with the project’s Community Advisory Board, which included members of the LGBT community and service providers.

Brenda Clark, 54, a recent retiree and gay woman, joined the Community Advisory Board because she is concerned about her future and the future of other LGBT women. “I wanted to look at the issues that affect women who have trouble accessing healthcare,” says Clark. “I’ve always had health insurance and caring providers, but I know not everybody is that lucky.”

At the town hall meeting, Clark joined more than 60 others from the LGBT community in giving recommendations that the researchers can implement as part of their project. Audience members provided input in three focus areas: health information for older adults, access to care and social services. Recommendations included more education and outreach targeting older LGBT adults; increased social spaces and programs affirming of older LGBT adults to help decrease isolation; sensitivity training for providers of care and increased availability of sexual health information tailored to the needs of older adults.


About PHMC

Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) is a nonprofit public health institute that creates and sustains healthier communities. PHMC uses best practices to improve community health through direct service, partnership, innovation, policy, research, technical assistance and a prepared workforce. PHMC has served the region since 1972. For more information on PHMC, visit