Document Type

Article - post-print

Publication Date



Background: LGBTQ* (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer) older adults are demographically diverse and growing populations. In an earlier 25-year review of the literature on sexual orientation and aging, we identified four waves of research that addressed dispelling negative stereotypes, psychosocial adjustment to aging, identity development, and social and community-based support in the lives of LGBTQ older adults.

Objectives: The current review was designed to develop an evidence base for the field of LGBTQ aging as well as to assess the strengths and limitations of the existing research and to articulate a blueprint for future research.

Methods: Using a life course framework, we applied a systematic narrative analysis of research on LGBTQ aging. The review included 66 empirical peer-reviewed journal articles (2009-2016) focusing on LGBTQ adults aged 50 years and older, as well as age-based comparisons (50 years and older with those younger).

Results: A recent wave of research on the health and well-being of LGBTQ older adults was identified. Since the prior review, the field has grown rapidly. Several findings were salient, including the increas-ed application of theory (with critical theories most often used) and more varied research designs and methods. While -existing life course theory provided a structure for the investigation of the social dimensions of LGBTQ aging, it was limited in its attention to intersectionality and the psychological, behavioral, and biological work emerging in the field. There were few studies addressing the oldest in these -communities, bisexuals, gender non-binary older adults, intersex, -older adults of color, and those living in poverty. -Conclusions: The Iridescent Life Course framework highlights the interplay of light and environment, creating dynamic and fluid colors as perceived from different angles and perspectives over time. Such an approach incorporates both queering and trans-forming the life course, capturing intersectionality, fluidity over time, and the psychological, behavioral, and biological as well as social dimensions of LGBTQ aging. Work is needed that investigates trauma, differing configurations of risks and resources over the life course, inequities and opportunities in representation and capital as LGBTQ adults age, and greater attention to subgroups that remain largely invisible in existing research. More depth than breadth is imperative for the field, and multilevel, longitudinal, and global initiatives are needed.

Included in

Sociology Commons