As members of the LGBT community age, fear and anxiety take over the men and women who have pioneered for equality. Some of these trailblazers even find themselves forced back into the closet in the later years of their lives.
How do the concerns of aging affect LGBT seniors compared to their heterosexual, cisgender peers? LGBT seniors have spent a lifetime hiding their identity for fear of prejudice and discrimination. They also lack a traditional family support network, making them more reliant on aging services, but are hesitant to access these options since these services often lack the education and resources to provide appropriate and sensitive care to LGBT elders. These factors combine for a greater chance of social isolation and related health disparities among the LGBT community.
For all those who worked hard to gain rights and social acceptance for future generations, the question to ask now is:
How can we support LGBT seniors?
Work on building trust and gaining credibility by improving communication and becoming informed about unique strengths, stressors, and legal challenges in the lives of LGBT older adults.
Research LGBT health resources and programs for best practice guidelines.
Refer them to SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline if they need to confide in someone or are in crisis.
Remember that many LGBT seniors have experienced a lifetime of discrimination about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, making it difficult for some to talk openly about their past - don’t push for them to open up.
Use vocabulary and terminology the LGBT senior uses. For example, if they say, “homosexual” follow that lead. Likewise, if people use other identifiers to describe themselves, use those terms.
Respect confidentiality - don’t share another’s story or personal history unless given approval to do so.
Download Our Guide to Home Care
While we honor our LGBT seniors for bulldozing a path towards equality, it’s important to call attention to the challenges still facing their community today and remain vigilant in fighting for increased support focused on the LGBT senior community.