Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Older lesbians-Social networks, Older lesbians-Psychology, Sexual minorities-Social networks, Aging, Ageism, Bereavement in old age, LGBT, LGBT community, LGBT gerontology, LGBT succesful aging, LGBT aging


This study was undertaken to explore the role of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the lives of lesbians over 65. Lesbians over 65 have lived through a period in U.S. history when homosexuality was not socially acceptable or safe; LGBT individuals lived with a real and constant threat of loss of employment and family, and of violence, without protection of law that is afforded today. LGBT individuals are currently more accepted, safe, and visible in the U.S, as are the communities that they have formed. With these new developments, do lesbians over 65 participate in, or connect with these communities? Do they wish for greater involvement? If so, what are the barriers? Do they experience ageism and/or sexism in LGBT communities? This qualitative study used semi-structured open-ended questions to interview twelve lesbians spanning a range of geographic areas and ages over 65. The study found that participants did not experience exclusion due to ageism or sexism, rather that levels of involvement in LGBT community were determined by personal preference. Initial LGBT community involvement was found to be an important aspect of self-acceptance, allowing for greater engagement with life and self-growth—measures designated by the National Institute of Health that indicate successful aging. Bereavement supports for lesbians over 65 who have lost a spouse were found by this study to be insufficient. The study suggests that LGBT community agencies implement LGBT specific bereavement support services, and outreach and advocacy.




iii, 67 p. : col. ill. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2013. Includes bibliographical references (p. 53-58)