The Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and SAGE have just released a report, Understanding Issues Facing LGBT Older Adults, which aims to increase awareness of the diverse needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) elders across the country. The report offers a comprehensive look into the experiences of LGBT elders, highlighting the challenges they face across a wide range of topics from health care to financial security and community support, and their resilience in the face of these challenges.
As America’s population rapidly ages (the number of people over 65 will double by 2050) so too do LGBT adults. Currently, there are more than 2.7 million LGBT adults aged 50 or older – nearly one third of all LGBT adults. Yet, in March 2017, the Trump administration aimed to exclude LGBT elders when his administration released a troubling new draft of the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants (NSOAAP), a survey used to determine what services will be provided to older Americans in need. Previously the survey included critical questions about sexual orientation and gender identity. However, the new draft of the survey removed all questions related to LGBT elders. According to the new report, data and research are more crucial than ever to identify and address the impact of discrimination and stigma in areas ranging from health care to housing to employment.
“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,” said 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.”
Today’s report, Understanding Issues Facing LGBT Older Adults, provides a snapshot of the demographics of LGBT elders, an aging community which is diverse in terms of race and ethnicity, gender, and age. 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.
“Aging in America isn’t easy,” said Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE. “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. 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.”
SAGE is the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT older people. SAGE also offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older adults and their caregivers, provides education and technical assistance for aging providers and LGBT organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, and cultural competence training through SAGECare. With staff located across the country, SAGE coordinates a growing network of affiliates across the country. Learn more at sageusa.org.
Founded in 2006, the Movement Advancement Project is an independent think tank that provides rigorous research, insight and analysis that help speed equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. www.lgbtmap.org
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.