Study: 60% of aging LGBTQ+ in Oregon experience discrimination

Oregon

First statewide study on improving services for aging LGBTQ+ Oregonians

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Sixty percent of aging LGBTQ+ people in Oregon have experienced discrimination this past year, according to a recent study.

The study, which was funded by the Oregon Department of Health and Human Services and conducted by the University of Washington’s Goldsen Institute, is the first of its kind in the state of Oregon. The Oregon LGBTQ+ Older Adult Report surveyed 1,402 adults ages 55 and older who identify as LGBTQ+ on the needs and strengths within their communities.

“We really wanted to identify a baseline data for the experience of LGBTQ+ older adults in Oregon,” said Jane-Ellen Weidanz, ODHS’ Aging and People with Disabilities Long Term Services and Supports administrator. “So we can start addressing concerns and build on the strengths those communities have.”

Rates of Discrimination in the Past Year Among LGBTQ+ Participants
Courtesy: The Goldsen Institute (University of Washington) & The Oregon Department of Human Services

The study, which was led by Karen Fredriksen Goldsen, Ph.D., of the University of Washington, found that more than half of the participants reported experiencing discrimination and 24% percent reported abuse.

“I was struck by the percentage of individuals who were actively discriminated against. And that it prevented them from accessing services and reporting abuse,” Weidanz told KOIN 6 News. “For a program that is geared towards serving older adults and all Oregonians that was very distressing.”

According to the study, 76% of participants who experienced abuse did not report it. The data also showed an increased risk of discrimination for BIPOC community members.

Rates of Elder Abuse in the Past Year Among LGBTQ+ Participants
Courtesy: The Goldsen Institute (University of Washington) & The Oregon Department of Human Services

“There’s still long-standing discrimination in our society that continues to plague this community,” Weidanz stated. “Though things are changing, they’re not changing fast enough. So, I think we still have work to do.” 

More than half of the participants reported having unmet needs for services, with one third of the group experiencing some level of financial instability.

The data also showed surveyors experienced higher rates of suicidal ideations than the general population, with 21% reporting thoughts of suicide with in the past year.

Rates of Suicidal Ideation in the Past Year by Age Group among LGBTQ+ Participants
Courtesy: The Goldsen Institute (University of Washington) & The Oregon Department of Human Services

Despite disparities, the research also illustrated great resiliency among participants, with almost 80% actively helping others by engaging in LGBTQ+ communities.

Weidanz told KOIN 6 News the study is crucial because it helps the agency identify the needs of the community so they can better assist them in overcoming disparities.

In partnership with ODHS, the Oregon LGBTQ+ Older Adult Survey received support from the Governor’s Commission on Senior Services, the Oregon LGBTQ+ Aging Coalition and SAGE Metro Portland among other community organizations and LGBTQ+ advocates.

For those in need of resources and support, Weidenz gave this message: “If you are facing discrimination or are afraid to reach out, we’re here for you. We have services and support and we’re here to help.”

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