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Assessing Interest in LGBT Cultural Competency Training
posted 10.19.2011

‘Ready to Serve’ Study Results

This study provides the first snapshot of the Aging Network’s experience with and readiness to serve LGBT older adults. Here are some of its findings:

  • More than one-third of participant agencies offered or funded LGBT aging training to staff, and four out of five were willing to offer training.
  • Very few provided LGBT specific services or outreach.
  • The majority believed that LGBT older adults would be welcome by local aging service providers.
  • Only a minority received requests to help an LBG older adult (31 percent) or a Transgender older adult (19 percent).
  • Staff training was crucial for building understanding and addressing the unique needs of LGBT older adults.

Download the report at partner websites:

National Partners:

National Association of Area Agencies on Aging

National Gay & Lesbian Task Force

Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders

Local Twin Cities Area Partners:

Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging

PFund Foundation

University of Minnesota College of Education & Human Development

Researchers: Kelly Abel Knochel; Catherine F. Croghan; Rajean P. Moone; Jean K. Quam

By Cathy Croghan

Until recently, little was known about whether or not aging services providers were ready to work with LGBT clients.  What was known suggested they were unprepared (with little or no LGBT-related staff training, targeted services or outreach).

One avenue through which to assess such readiness is to look at area agencies on aging (AAAs).  AAAs provide crucial assistance in developing and funding home- and community-based services.  Understanding the ability of AAAs to work with the LGBT population sheds considerable light on the overall readiness of aging service providers to deliver culturally appropriate and welcoming service to LGBT adults.   

Three recent readiness surveys of AAAs and AAA-funded service providers add to this body of knowledge, and confirm the low readiness noted earlier. A 2007 survey of AAA-funded providers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Area found little readiness, but significant willingness to be trained on issues related to LG aging (75 percent) according to a May 2011 article, “Are Old Lesbian and Gay People Well Served?” by Kelly Knochel, Jean Quam and Catherine Croghan in the Journal of Applied Gerontology.

 A similar, as yet unpublished survey conducted by myself and my colleague, Rajean P. Moone, earlier this year of AAA-funded service providers across Wisconsin also found poor readiness to work with LGBT clients, but broad interest in being trained (71 percent).  A 2010 national survey of AAAs and State Units on Aging again found low readiness to work with LGBT elders but willingness to train staff on the issues (80 percent).  (See sidebar for more details about this national study.)

This willingness to be trained in issues relevant to LGBT aging corresponds nicely with the development over the past decade of several cultural competency training (CCT) programs across the country, including: Project Visibility, Council on Jewish Elderly,  Training to Serve, and National Resource Center on LGBT Aging.  As these programs have developed, they have, for the most part, followed similar didactic formulas using one- to eight-hour time slots to present instructor-lead classroom curricula. 

At Training to Serve, we offer two- and four-hour LGBT cultural competency training curricula.  We have found few organizations are ready to train their entire staffs, especially front-line, non-licensed personnel like nursing assistants, home health aides and personal care attendants. Generally, it’s management and licensed staff—such as registered nurses, social workers and occupational therapists—who attend our sessions.  In response to this, we plan a market survey of service providers in 2012 to better understand which formats would make it possible for us to reach a greater percentage of a provider's staff. 

As advocates, we have definite ideas about "what providers need to know," but it’s important to figure out how to effectively deliver cultural competency training in a workplace-friendly, useable format.  This is particularly important when LGBT competency training is voluntary. 

Because there is apparently so little information about what service providers want from cultural competency training—format, length of time, willingness to pay for training, average time spent per year in training—LAIN has joined with ASA's Network on Multicultural Aging (NOMA) to survey ASA membership as a first step to understanding service provider perceptions of how to deliver cultural competency training in the workplace. Look for results this fall. 




Cathy Croghan, MS, MPH, RN, is a geriatric community health consultant and researcher in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.  She also serves as chairperson on the Training to Serve Board of Directors. Contact her at

This article is brought to you by the Editorial Board of ASA’s LGBT Aging Issues Network (LAIN)

Posted on October 19, 2011

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