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Life Course Transitions, Personal Networks, and Social Support for LGBTQ+ Elders: Implications for Physical and Mental Health

Sexual and Gender Minority Health

ISBN: 978-1-83867-147-1, eISBN: 978-1-83867-146-4

Publication date: 15 January 2021


Purpose: This chapter explores the role of life course transitions, personal networks, community, and social support in the physical and mental health of LGBTQ+ elders. Specifically, we review the literature on formal and informal supports and resources available to LGBTQ+ elders as they age.

Methodology: We use an intersectional lens that explores dimensions of social identity and social location among diverse subpopulations within sexual and gender minority (SGM) elders. We outline the implications of access (or lack of access) to formal and informal care for SGM elders' physical and mental health and well-being in late life. We examine the availability of these supports in the context of broad inequalities and life events that structure the life course for LGBTQ+ elders and have long-term health implications.

Findings: Our findings from this review demonstrate how social factors over the life course shape SGM mental and physical health later in life for aging LGBTQ+ populations. We reflect on how strained relationships and lack of acceptance compel some to seek alternative sources of support and relationships. Our analysis uncovers individual and institutional sources of support: personal social networks and formal spaces, such as healthcare settings, that connect elders with resources to develop social support and avoid social isolation.

Implications: The implications of our review reveal the unique needs and barriers to practical and social support that SGM older adults face. We explore alternative supports that LGBTQ+ elders need compared with their heterosexual cisgender peers, given the disproportionate rejection they face in a range of public and intimate spaces. We conclude by identifying and celebrating sources of support and resilience as LGBTQ+ elders have crafted alternate support networks and advocated for increased recognition, rights, and care.

Originality and Value: Despite some recent flourishing of research in SGM health, a road map for scholars, practitioners, and community members outlining future research in understudied areas such as LGBTQ+ aging and transgender health would help advance scholarship and policy. Our commentary highlights quantitative and qualitative studies and suggests avenues for research that put in conversation literatures on rural studies, urban sociology, and social networks; gerontology; health; and gender/sexuality studies.



Torres, S. and Lacy, G. (2021), "Life Course Transitions, Personal Networks, and Social Support for LGBTQ+ Elders: Implications for Physical and Mental Health", LeBlanc, A.J. and Perry, B.L. (Ed.) Sexual and Gender Minority Health (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 21), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 157-179.



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