Groundbreaking senior survey taking place

Seniors in Alaska are asked to complete many surveys, needs assessments and questionnaires that try to determine who people are and what they need. These surveys help policy makers and service planners to know where gaps are and how funds should be distributed. But until now there has never been a survey that tries to identify who older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are and how their aging experience might differ.

At last January’s annual Alaska Public Health Summit, three organizations presented a seminar on the unique aspects of LGBT aging. They were AARP, the Veterans Administration, and Identity, Inc. (the statewide LGBT community organization). The information they presented raised awareness among service providers and senior advocates that we can’t really know what older LGBT individuals in Alaska need, or can contribute, until we ask the right questions.

Jaime Spatrisano, a doctoral student in Clinical-Community Psychology at UAA, offered to do a comprehensive senior survey designed to capture information on older LGBT individuals as her research project and dissertation. This is the first time that such a project is being conducted in Alaska and will make history as a previously unknown and often hidden segment of our population over age 50 is better understood. The survey is designed to gather demographic information as well as qualitative data that will describe how older LGBT adults use senior programs, access health care, and relate to the senior community at large.

While there are questions in the survey that address specific LGBT issues, it is also important to the research that seniors from all kinds of backgrounds and experience complete the survey in order to compare data. The survey is simple and can be completed online in less than ten minutes. It is completely anonymous with no possibility of personal identification. Persons who take the survey and identify themselves as LGBT are offered voluntary ways to take part in further data gathering and brainstorming through focus groups and community forums.

If you are 50+, please take a few minutes and help make Alaska history by completing the survey. The online link is . If you would like to take the survey but don’t use a computer, you can also request a paper copy by contacting Drew Phoenix at Identity, Inc. (929-4528) or Jaime Spatrisano at UAA, (907) 786-7264. The survey results will be available by next summer, and will be shared in a future issue of the Senior Voice.

Ken Helander is the AARP Alaska Advocacy Director.