February 8, 2019

A new evidence-based intervention for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults living with memory loss, including those with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, and their informal caregivers was awarded a five-year $3.6 million grant. 

Aging with Pride: IDEA (Innovations in Dementia Empowerment and Action) will be the first to develop and test a tailored approach to improve physical function and independence for LGBT aging adults who frequently experience stigma, isolation, negative interactions with health care providers, and limited access to support resources. 

The study will be based in three west coast cities: Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Trained coaches will deliver an individualized program of behavioral strategies and exercise, and will work with aging and caregiving agencies as well as community organizations in the LGBT community. Funding comes from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Aging. 

“Unique life experiences of LGBT older adults, including lifetime experiences of discrimination and victimization they may have encountered in health care settings, often result in difficulty accessing services, which can be especially challenging when memory loss and dementia enter the equation,” said School of Social Work Professor Karen Fredriksen Goldsen, who is the project’s principal investigator.

Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias affect up to 5.7 million Americans. Although LGBT aging adults are at heightened risk for cognitive impairment and dementia because of that population’s prevalence of depression, cardiovascular disease, HIV, smoking and social isolation, they remain underserved.

The study’s leadership team also includes UW School of Nursing Professor Linda Teri, who developed Reducing Disabilities in Alzheimer's Disease, an earlier study that formed the foundation for Aging with Pride: IDEA. 

Fredriksen Goldsen has led other breakthrough studies, including Aging with Pride: National Health, Aging and Sexuality/Gender Study (NHAS), the first federally funded national longitudinal study of the health and well-being of LGBT midlife and older adults. It found that 10 percent of LGBT older adult respondents reported severe or extreme cognitive difficulties, and 15 percent were afraid to access health care outside the LGBT community. 

"Our studies show that LGBT older adults with memory loss and their care partners are understudied populations, and our findings will likely aid in the development of much-needed interventions for other vulnerable older adult populations,” said Fredriksen Goldsen.