Older gays and lesbians will face unique challenges as they age

posted Sep 1, 2015, 10:22 AM by Wayne Wieseler

America's older population is growing, and so is the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adults who are moving into their later years. In the next several decades, LGBT adults age 65 and above is expected to double, reaching more than 3 million by 2030. These are the five main things we need to change if we want our society to be prepared for the full diversity of its aging population:

Basic Health Care

In the United States, about 80 percent of long-term care for older people is provided by family members, such as and spouses, children and other relatives. But LGBT elders are only half as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to have close family to lean on for help.

Caregiving Issues

Because the support systems of LGBT elders — their partners and their families of choice — often are not recognized under the law, LGBT people frequently are not granted family or medical leave to take care of a sick or terminally ill partner.

Financial Insecurity

Poverty rates among elder lesbian and gay couples are 9.1 percent and 4.9 percent, respectively, compared with 4.6 percent among elder heterosexual couples.

Social Isolation

Despite creating families of choice and other support networks, many LGBT older people still experience high rates of social isolation. They are twice as likely to be single and to live alone, and three to four times as likely to be childless. They are also less likely to feel welcome in the places where many older people socialize, such as senior centers, volunteer centers and places of worship.

Access to Aging Services

LGBT older people often do not access aging services out of fear of harassment or hostility. Few aging services providers plan for, or reach out to, the LGBT community — and few are prepared to address insensitivity or discrimination aimed at LGBT elders by staff or other older people. More...
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