Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Gerontology Institute

First Advisor

Candace L. Kemp

Second Advisor

Elisabeth O. Burgess

Third Advisor

Jennifer Craft Morgan


Social support is a key factor influencing older adults’ health and well-being. Disclosing one’s lesbian, gay, or bisexual identity at any age has great potential for altering, if not destroying, existing relationships with family, friends, and others. With long-established social roles and personal relationships, the potential risks may be accentuated for those who come out in mid- or later-life. Yet, researchers have paid scant attention to this phenomenon. This exploratory qualitative study examines the impact of coming out “late” on older adults’ social networks. In-depth interviews were conducted with a sample of fourteen older adults who disclosed their non-heterosexual identity at or after age 39. Interviews inquired about participants’ past and present social networks and the coming out process, particularly the influence of coming out “off time.” Findings show coming out is a dynamic, continuous, and non-linear process that simultaneously characterizes and is characterized by social network gains and losses.