Older LGBT Adults’ End-of-Life Conversations: Findings from Nova Scotia, Canada

  • Jacqueline Gahagan Dalhousie University
  • Áine M. Humble Mount Saint Vincent University
  • Gloria M. Gutman Simon Fraser University
  • Brian de Vries San Francisco State University
Keywords: LGBT, end-of-life, older adults, Nova Scotia


Although increasing research attention in North America is being paid to the health and social disparities experienced among older lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations, end-of-life (EOL) preparations among these populations are not yet well understood. This study explored older LGBT individuals’ EOL preparations and service providers’ perceptions of such provisions. In this qualitative study, we conducted three focus groups with 15 LGBT adults aged 60 and older who have at least one chronic health condition and live in Nova Scotia. We also conducted one focus group with four service providers. We identified four themes: (a) LGBT communities of care have changed over time, (b) difficulties in asking others for help, (c) hesitancy in thinking about end-of-life, and (d) varying views on the helpfulness of internet technology. The findings illustrate ongoing tensions between being “out” about one’s sexual orientation or gender identity and being able to engage with social and health care providers in determining EOL planning.



Bien que les recherches en Amérique du Nord s’intéressent de plus en plus aux disparités sanitaires et sociales connues par les personnes âgées lesbiennes, gaies, bisexuelles et transgenres (LGBT), les questions des préparatifs de fin de vie au sein de ces populations ne sont pas encore bien comprises. Cette étude a exploré les préparatifs de fin de vie des personnes âgées LGBT et les perceptions qu’ont les fournisseurs de services de ces prestations. Dans cette étude qualitative, nous avons organisé trois groupes de consultation avec 15 adultes LGBT âgés de 60 ans et plus, qui ont au moins un problème de santé chronique et vivent en Nouvelle-Écosse. Nous avons également organisé un groupe de consultation avec quatre fournisseurs de services. Nous avons cerné quatre thèmes : (a) l’évolution des communautés de soins LGBT au fil du temps, (b) les difficultés à demander de l’aide aux autres, (c) la réticence à réfléchir aux questions de fin de vie et (d) les points de vue variables sur l’utilité de la technologie Internet. Les résultats révèlent des tensions persistantes entre le fait d’avoir « déclaré publiquement » son orientation sexuelle ou son identité de genre et la capacité d’engager le dialogue avec des prestataires d’aide sociale et de soins de santé pour établir des préparatifs de fin de vie.

Author Biographies

Jacqueline Gahagan, Dalhousie University

Jacqueline Gahagan, PhD (Medical Sociology), is a Full Professor in the Faculty of Health at Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS. Jacquie’s research focuses on the health outcomes of marginalized populations, sex- and gender-based analysis of health policies, harm reduction, LBT cancer experiences, LGBTQi+ aging, HIV and STBBI prevention and mixed methods.

Áine M. Humble, Mount Saint Vincent University

Áine M. Humble, PhD (Human Development and Family Studies) is a Professor in Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, NS. Her research focuses on family rituals, women and healthy aging, same-sex families, qualitative methodology, and qualitative data analysis software. She is currently working on an edited book with Dr. Elise Radina about qualitative data analysis.

Gloria M. Gutman, Simon Fraser University

Gloria M. Gutman, PhD is a Professor Emeriti in the Gerontology Department at Simon Fraser, Burnaby, British Columbia. Her research interests are wide-ranging including: seniors’ housing, long-term care, health promotion, elder abuse prevention, environmental design of age-friendly hospitals and cities, LGBTQ aging, and seniors’ emergency preparedness.

Brian de Vries, San Francisco State University

Brian de Vries, PhD is an Adjunct Professor in the Gerontology Department at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, and a Professor Emeritus of Gerontology at San Francisco State University. His areas of research interest relate to LGBTQ aging.


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39.1 Research