State launches first-of-its-kind survey of LGBTQIA+ older adults

Openhouse’s campus on Laguna St. in San Francisco, Calif., in an undated photo. Openhouse has over 100 affordable housing units for LGBTQ+ seniors and two programming centers. (JL Odom via Bay City News)

The California Department of Aging has launched a statewide, first-of-its-kind survey on the needs of mid-life and older adults in the LGBTQIA+ community.

The survey seeks to document the “needs, hopes and priorities” of these California residents in order to understand their life experiences and improve services as the community ages.

Sarah Steenhausen, deputy director of the CDA’s Division of Policy, Research and Equity, said that the department hopes that the survey “will bring light to the unique challenges, aspirations, and contributions of the LGBTQIA+ population so that we can chart an equitable path forward for all.”

The survey, LGBTQIA+ Older Adults in California: From Challenges to Resilience, is being conducted by a team of researchers at CITRIS Health at University of California, Berkeley, University of California, San Francisco, and Openhouse, a San Francisco-based community services organization for older LGBTQIA+ adults.

Dr. Marcy Adelman, a founder of Openhouse and a longevity consultant, called the survey “a game-changer because we have such little data on these communities as they age,” a situation that has “tied our hands in terms of creating effective policy and implementing programming.”

Adelman’s work has shown that LGBTQIA+ older adults in San Francisco are “more likely to live alone than the general population of seniors,” less likely to have children, and “more likely to be at risk” as their support networks shrink over time.

Although Adelman emphasized that the LGBTQIA+ community is resilient and extremely strong as a result of a lifetime of “living with and overcoming bias,” a survey of this population is critical to “understand the needs of LGBTQIA+ communities around the state, particularly those of color and in rural areas.”

Adelman expects that the survey, which is “not just for Baby Boomers” but instead directed at California residents who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community and are ages 50 and up, will provide “a benchmark to understand how well we are aging from generation to generation” so that future generations can “age better.”

Amy Yotopoulos, president and CEO of Avenidas, a nonprofit organization serving older adults on the mid-Peninsula, underscored the need to address particular issues of the LGBTQIA+ population.

“These are people who have often experienced discrimination their entire lives. They may not have built up the caregiving or other networks that are so necessary” as people get older, Yotopoulos said.

Through its Rainbow Collective, Avenidas offers older LGBTQIA+ adults social opportunities as well as caregiving support, cultural competency workshops, and health and wellness resources.

Focus groups will be also held in conjunction with the survey to collect qualitative data from hard-to-reach members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

The survey is available through March 31 at Those interested in participating in a focus group or learning more about the project should email

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