As the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, it is clear that we are woefully unprepared to provide for the needs of older LGBT adults.
BY ORLY LYONNE
There are more than 2.7 million LGBT adults aged 50 or older—nearly one third of all LGBT adults, according to a recent report compiled by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE).
“As the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, it is clear that we are woefully unprepared to provide for the needs of older LGBT adults,” says Ineke Mushovic, executive director of MAP. “With substantial barriers to accessing care, compounded by lifelong discrimination and stigma, LGBT people face discrimination that make it harder to age with support and dignity. We must understand—and address—the challenges facing LGBT elders, rather than shutting them out of aging services by offering care that doesn’t meet their needs.”
From providing adequate long-term care that is culturally competent to ensuring that LGBT elders aren’t erased from federal services to protecting our elders from religious-based discrimination, we have an obligation to do better.”
The report, Understanding Issues Facing LGBT Older Adults, provides a snapshot of the demographics of LGBT elders. The report outlines how challenges, including a lifetime of discrimination in employment, accessing comprehensive health care, and housing—as well as lack of legal and social relationship recognition—can lead to poverty, social isolation, and poorer mental and physical health.
The report offers high-level recommendations for addressing key disparities facing LGBT older adults including:
- Passing comprehensive employment and housing nondiscrimination protections prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Ensuring that all senior housing, assisted living, and nursing homes have explicit nondiscrimination policies and train staff on competently serving LGBT elders.
- Revising federal and state programs to recognize the relationships of same-sex couples where one partner died before the freedom to marry was the law of the land nationwide in 2015.
- Designating LGBT elders as an underserved population within the Older Americans Act and within the Department of Health and Human Services, allowing government agencies to more easily target services
- Passing the Restoration of Honor Act to make veterans discharged because of their sexual orientation or gender identity eligible for a number of programs, services, and benefits available at the state level.
“With uncertainty about the future of our health care system, Social Security, and other programs older adults rely on, it’s especially hard to plan for the future. It is even harder for LGBT elders who face discrimination within the very systems designed to support them as they age,” says Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE.
“That’s why it’s crucial that LGBT elders receive legal and social recognition, culturally competent care, welcoming and affordable housing, and supportive programs. From providing adequate long-term care that is culturally competent to ensuring that LGBT elders aren’t erased from federal services to protecting our elders from religious-based discrimination, we have an obligation to do better.”
Taking Care Of Our Own
No one should age alone. But for many LGBT people, it happens all the time. The SAGE National LGBT Elder Hotline, in partnership with the GLBT National Help Center, is staffed by trained volunteers who are there to listen and help vulnerable LGBT elders.
Need support? Call 1-888-234-SAGE.