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Date of Award

6-2014

Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Master of Social Work

Department

School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Dr. Rosemary McCaslin

Abstract

With a rapidly growing lesbian and gay older adult population, it is important to understand the attitudes and perceptions held by older adult service providers. A questionnaire was distributed to San Bernardino County's Area Agency on Aging's service providers with the purpose of exploring and assessing their attitudes and perceptions toward lesbians and gay clients. The study consisted of a secondary data analysis with a total of 145 cases. Results indicated that African American participants reported the most positive perceptions of how current agency clients might react toward their lesbian and gay peers whereas Latino/a participants reported the least positive perceptions. Participants that identified themselves as volunteers or students reported the lowest levels of awareness of lesbian or gay clients as well as the lowest levels of comfort in working with this population. Older participants reported the least positive perceptions of how agency staff would react to lesbian and gay clients.

With the exception of the aforementioned results, participants' awareness of lesbian and gay clients within the agency, their perceptions of how staff and other clients would treat this population and their comfort levels reveals a general lack of understanding of the needs of the older adult lesbian and gay population regardless of participant ethnicity, gender, role within the agency and age. Recommendations include ongoing cultural competency training, the inclusion of sexual orientation in the intake assessment process, ensuring a safe environment, and the development of services aimed at responding to the needs of lesbian and gay older adults.

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