Claire Copa

University of Toledo
2019

“The Scholars program was an exemplary example of how a variety of backgrounds and education levels can come together to collaboratively speak on aging issues, programming, and future projections of the aging population.”

This past semester while participating the Ohio Scholars in Aging program, I completed a research project about Recreation Therapists’ perspectives on their education, formal training, comfortability and competency to serve the aging LGBT population. I am currently pursuing a PhD in Health Education but have a background in Recreation Therapy. For my research project, I decided to bring both my passions of health education and recreation therapy together to explore an important aging population issue.

As the aging population continues to rapidly grow in size, so does the diversity. The LGBT older adult population is expected to double by 2030 which means there will be increased chance that health care providers will come in contact with the population. Currently, many health professionals are not prepared to provide culturally competent quality care to meet the health needs of LGBT older adults. Aging service providers need to be aware that a lifetime of stigma and discrimination puts LGBT older adults at greater risk for physical and mental illnesses, and other issues such as social isolation, poor nutrition, delayed care-seeking, and premature mortality. My current study found Recreation Therapists are receiving little training and education on the population but self-report higher levels of competency and comfortability. The findings suggest that professional experience in the field could be compensating for the lack of education and training that adds to their competency and comfortability. However, reliance on professional experience, continuing education, and agency-based training to be prepared to serve the LGBT aging population can lead to variability in the quantity and quality of training and education, and ultimately the quality of care provided to patients.

The Ohio Scholars in Aging Program allowed me to network with a variety of aging professionals in the field. As a future health educator, I value the interdisciplinary approach to addressing health issues. The Scholars program was an exemplary example of how a variety of backgrounds and education levels can come together to collaboratively speak on aging issues, programming, and future projections of the aging population. I especially enjoyed learning more about the aging in place communities within Columbus, what the AAAs offer across Ohio and new policy development to improve the lives of the older adult population. Overall, the Scholars in Aging program has been unbelievably rewarding and I plan to stay in contact with the organizers as I continue my education.