In a review of 58 articles published between andthis article synthesizes the recent state of social research on older lesbian, gay male, and bisexual adults in order to summarize existing knowledge about these groups, to guide future research on aging, and to identify the substantive issues affecting their lives.
Based on a life-course perspective, the primary research domains identified include the interplay of lives and historical times and linked and interdependent lives.
After reviewing the literature in "Sexual orientation change with age" of these areas, the article presents an examination of the strengths and limitations of the body of knowledge and an outline of a blueprint for future research.
As the global population is aging dramatically, the number of older lesbian, gay, and bisexual LGB adults is likely increasing substantially. Given the ambiguities of defining sexual orientation, 1 the reluctance of individuals to openly self-identify, and the lack of population-based studies incorporating measures of sexual orientation, it has been difficult to estimate the proportion of the older adult population that is LGB.
Most research and probability-based surveys incorporating measures of sexual orientation and sexual behavior of the U. In large urban centers, estimates of the number of LGB persons increase substantially, with women reporting between 2. With more than 37 million adults 65 years of age and older U.
Sexual orientation change with age that time, at least 2 to 6 million LGB adults will be 65 years of age and older.
These heretofore invisible populations are worthy of systematic critical attention and will have unique needs as they age. Studying such historically disadvantaged groups expands our knowledge of the diversity of experiences and needs of the older population. To understand their lives, we must understand LGB adults in their historical and social contexts Clunis et al.
We must take into account the culture, politics, and social mores of the era in which these older adults came Sexual orientation change with age age and lived—a time when same-sex relationships were severely stigmatized and criminalized and when invisibility reigned. It was not until the s, with the civil rights movements, the Stonewall Inn riots, and the start of the gay liberation movement that younger gay men and lesbians began to emerge from the closet.
The powerful influence of both historical forces and social context makes the life-course perspective particularly useful in understanding LGB aging. Bridging the dynamics and social processes that occur, a life-course perspective highlights social interaction and social structure in order to understand and explain human experience. Considering the interweaving of age-graded trajectories, a life-course analysis is sensitive to the consequences of early transitions for later life experiences and events and allows us to examine the influence of social trajectories in the developmental processes of individuals.
Elder argues that the interplay of historical times, the timing of social roles and events, the linked and interdependent nature of lives, and human agency in choice making are central to understanding aging and development from a life-course perspective.
In this article, we apply a life-course perspective in a review of the literature on LGB to better understand what is currently known about the processes and lived experiences of older LGB adults. Reviewing 58 articles published between andthis article synthesizes the recent state of social research about older LGB adults in order to summarize our knowledge about these groups, guide future research in aging, and better understand the substantive issues affecting their lives.
Such a review not only provides a better understanding of the present landscape of research about aging in these communities but also identifies and shapes topics for future inquiry.
Accordingly, a primary goal for this review is to evaluate the body of relevant literature not only to assess what we know about LGB aging from a life-course perspective but also to better understand how this knowledge has been amassed. As such, we analyze the major themes of the research findings and review the methodologies and theoretical approaches of the studies. A second goal for this review is to identify the gaps in the literature and the limitations of the current state of knowledge about LGB aging in order to suggest directions for future research.
The organization of this review is as follows. First, we describe the method we used to structure this review. Next, we discuss the literature by reviewing the primary domains of the research from a life-course perspective. For the purpose of this study, the primary domains we identified in the existing literature are as follows: We also examine both the strengths and limitations this body of knowledge.
Lastly, we outline a blueprint for future research. Similar to other literature reviews about older adults, we use a narrative Sexual orientation change with age, Williams, and Gibson ; Schulz et al.
We use a narrative approach because it allows us to compare studies of the same topic that use different methodologies. One of the goals of this review is to gain a greater understanding of the state of research about aging in the LGB communities, so we included articles that met the following search parameters: The selection criteria applied in this review provided a total sample of 58 articles. The articles were identified by searching the following databases: We used the following search terms to locate "Sexual orientation change with age" articles: For this review, we included articles in which the majority of the participants were at least 50 years of age as well as those that reported on age-based comparisons and included a subset of LGB persons 50 and older.
We used age 50 and older as the defining age criterion because the majority of articles within these populations have defined older adults as people age 50 and older. We included articles that were written in English and studies conducted in the United States or Canada.
In addition, although a number of influential books have been written on LGB aging see Clunis et al. Table 1 contains a brief description of all the articles in this review. To code the data, three graduate-level research assistants reviewed the articles for methodological approach, sample demographics, theoretical approach, and primary findings of the research. The research clustered around two primary themes central to the life-course perspective: The samples ranged in number of participants from 4 to , with a median number of 52 participants.
One study did not collect data on gender. Older transgender adults were included in the samples of Sexual orientation change with age studies, although findings specific to gender identity were not reported in the articles and thus are not included here.