The Minnesota Transgender Aging Project:

Locating a Hidden Population and Identifying Service Needs



This study, conducted by Dr. Abel Knochel of the University of Minnesota Duluth and Dylan Flunker of Rainbow Health Initiative, seeks to explore:

  • What medical and aging resources are available for transgender older adults?
  • How do transgender older adults experience health services and aging services in the Twin Cities metropolitan area and the Arrowhead region?
  • What do health services and aging services need in order to better serve this population?


Who is eligible?

  • Transgender people (people who identify with a gender that differs from the gender they were assigned at birth) over age 55 who live or receive services in the Twin Cities Metro area or Arrowhead region

What will you be asked to do?

  • Participate in a confidential interview or focus group about your experience with health services and/or aging services


  • You will receive a $50 gift card for participating


If you have any questions or are interested in participating, please contact us at:

Twin Cities Metro
Dylan Flunker, 612-206-3180

Arrowhead Region
Dr. Abel Knochel, 218-726-7845


This project addresses negative health outcomes related to both isolation and the lack of access to culturally responsive medical and aging services for older transgender individuals in Minnesota.  Older adults who identify as transgender are largely a hidden population, despite being an underserved group with unique needs. Old age is coming to the first generation of transgender people who transitioned in the United States (Williams & Freeman, 2007). Transgender older adults who transitioned in younger and middle adulthood were often acculturated by medical providers and other transgender people to disappear into mainstream society and begin new lives (Denny, 2006; Stryker, 2008). Other older adults are transitioning in old age. A majority of transgender adults experience significant rejection by family and other social supports when they come out, losses that may be difficult to replace in older age (Grant et al., 2011). As a result, many transgender older adults are isolated and hidden from one another, with less social support than cisgender lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the same age group (Fredriksen-Goldsen et al, 2014). This isolation may lead to negative health outcomes (Steptoe et al., 2013). Improvement to the social support network of transgender older adults will reduce isolation and improve their health outcomes. Social support has a positive impact on health and wellbeing and provides an opportunity to identify and meet an older adult’s needs for services and medical care before they reach a crisis.


Literature Cited

Croghan, C.F., Moone, R.P., & Olson, A.M. (2012). 2012 Twin Cities LGBT aging needs assessment survey report. Minneapolis, MN: PFund and United Way Greater Twin Cities.

Denny, D. (2006). Transgender communities of the United States in the late twentieth century. In P.

Currah, R.M. Juang, & S.P. Minter (Eds.), Transgender Rights (pp. 171-191). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Espinoza, R. (2014). Out and visible: The experiences and attitudes of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults, ages 45-75. New York, NY: SAGE.

Fredriksen-Goldsen, KI, Cook-Daniels, L., Kim, H.J., Erosheva, EA, Emlet, CA, Hoy-Ellis, CP, Goldsen,

J., & Muraco, A. (2014). Physical and mental health of transgender older adults: An at-risk and underserved population. The Gerontologist, 54(3), 488-500.

Grant, J.M., Mottet, L.A., Tanis, J., Harrison, J., Herman, J.L., & Keisling, M. (2011). Injustice at every turn: A report of the national transgender discrimination survey. Washington D.C: National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Rainbow Health Initiative. (2015). Voices of health: A survey of LGBTQ health in Minnesota. Minneapolis, MN.

Steptoe, A., Shankar, A., Demakakos, P., & Wardle, J. (2013). Social isolation, loneliness, and all-cause mortality in older men and women. PNAS, 110(15), 5797-5801. doi:10.1073/pnas.1219686110.

Stryker, S. (2008). Transgender history. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press.

Williams, M.E., & Freeman, P.A. (2007). Transgender health: Implications for aging and caregiving.

Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 18(3/4), 93-108.