Journal Article

The Challenge of Addressing Transgender Aging

There is a paucity of research and published literature on older transgender individuals. This article provides a comprehensive review of the literature relevant to providing optimal mental health care to older trans adults. It reviews terminology, highlights health disparities, and reviews ways for mental health professionals to support the aging transgender client. The older the transgender adult, the more likely the individual grew up in a historical context when there was greater social stigma towards their gender identity, even among mental health professionals. Transgender older adults face greater risks of poor physical health, disability, anxiety and depressive symptoms, victimization, and stigma, and higher rates of smoking, excessive alcohol use, and risky sexual behavior compared with non-transgender older adults. In spite of notable health disparities, some evidence points to resilience among transgender older adults. The mental health professional often serves as the first contact for a patient who is struggling with gender identity. The role of a mental health professional can be divided into five categories: 1) assessment of gender dysphoria; 2) psycho-education of patients and family members about the diversity of gender identities and various options for alleviating gender dysphoria; 3) referral to and collaboration with other healthcare professionals; 4) treatment of coexisting mental health concerns; 5) advocating for transgender patients and for the transgender community. This article reviews and highlights specific interventions within each of these categories.

Purpose of this Program: The AAHIVM, ACRIA and AGS (collectively, the “Sponsors,” “we” or “us”) are sponsors of this Website and through it seek to address the unique needs and challenges that older adults of diverse populations living with HIV face as they age. However, the information in this Website is not meant to supplant the advice provided in a doctor-patient relationship.

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