Towards a Diverse Vision of Aging: An Exploration of LGBTQ Aging Experiences and Perceptions
Flanagan, Ashley Kate
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How do you envision the later years of your life? How do you feel about aging? For many LGBTQ individuals, the later years of their life are a time of isolation, invisibility, harassment, and depression (Butler, 2004). The discrimination LGBTQ individuals have faced in their past does not end when they reach the age of 65, rather homophobia and heterosexism persists while being compounded with age related issues and ageism (Cronin & King, 2010). LGBTQ older adults often avoid the use of social, psychological, and medical services due to fear of discrimination and harassment (Brotman, Ryan, & Cormier, 2003). The avoidance or prolonged delay of medical attention may have serious repercussions for the social, psychological, and physical wellbeing of LGBTQ older adults (Finlon, 2002). However, it is well documented that participation in recreation and leisure activities has a profound impact on an individual’s life satisfaction and overall wellbeing (Mannell, 2007). It is conceivable that leisure and leisure experiences may provide a framework for challenging the largely negative perception of aging within the LGBTQ community, and potentially eliminating the grim outlook for the later years of life for LGBTQ individuals. By conducting active interviews with nine older adults, who self-identified as lesbian, gay, or transgender, the intention of this study was to contribute to and celebrate the growing understanding of leisure and diversity in aging and later life, as well as to call attention to the unique experiences of LGBTQ older adults. A critical gerontological lens and a critical phenomenological approach guided the data collection, however as I progressed through analysis and interpretation my research journey took a methodological turn. Through the use of heuristic inquiry and creative analytic practice this study presents the meanings ascribed to the aging perceptions and experiences of LGBTQ older adults.