Alternative Life Styles in Old Age
The most noticeable change in the literature between the 1970s and the 1990s is the proliferation of research about the effects of aging on the gay and lesbian communities. In 1979, Martin Berezin remarked that "Studies on the aging homosexual are extremely rare." The number of books and articles in this chapter illustrates the growing body of research in this area.
As the gay population increases its visibility in all aspects of life in the United States, elderly gay people also are becoming more visible. Several organizations, whose members consist of professional researchers, gerontologists, and health care professionals, have created special interest groups in response to this growing interest. Lesbianism has been suggested as a way of meeting the sexual and affection needs of the disproportionate number of women in the older population. Researchers have investigated the adjustment of gay people in later life, issues of loneliness and family interaction. A few of the writers have also included bisexuals in their investigations or discussions.
Like elderly sexuality in general, there are many myths and misconceptions associated with aging and the gay community. The writers whose work is listed in this chapter have identified the stereotypes and attempted to refute them. Many writers have set out to educate nurses and other health care professionals about gays and lesbians much as other writers have tried to educate nurses and physicians about the aging heterosexual population.