LGBT support is at an all-time high thanks to events like the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to allow gay marriage, Caitlyn Jenner’s decision to publicly identify as female, the rise of Orange Is the New Black’s Laverne Cox as a Hollywood superstar, and the increasing number of TV shows featuring LGBT couples (like the Netflix series Grace and Frankie and Sense8). But as we continue to bring LGBT issues into focus, it’s important to understand the issues that affect LGBT seniors, in particular.
For instance, did you know that, according to a recent Metlife study, more than a quarter (27%) of surveyed LGBT baby boomers reported “great concern about discrimination as they age, and less than half expressed strong confidence that healthcare professionals will treat them ‘with dignity and respect.’”? For gay seniors, finding dignified and respectful support as they age can prove to be an even more difficult process than it is for their heterosexual peers. Let’s take a look at two of the most important issues that affect the LGBT elderly community.
Thanks to the latest research, we know that loneliness has significant effects on physical health as well as mental health. But did you know that certain communities are at greater risk for isolation, likely due to the effects of familial and societal discrimination? According to recent studies, 53% of elderly LGBT individuals report feeling isolated from others, and 59% feel they lack companionship.
Along with national organizations like the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, projects like To Survive on This Shore have been utilizing photography and journalism to create awareness and spaces on the internet where LGBT individuals of all ages can see what it looks like to age in different parts of the country or in different communities. As stated on their website, the project’s creators, Jess. T. Dugan and Vanessa Fabbre, note that “representations of older transgender people are nearly absent from our culture and within artistic realms, and those that do exist are often one-dimensional.”
Resources like To Survive on This Shore and supportive services offered by the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging can help those feeling isolated to know they are not alone in searching for and needing support.
- Financial Concerns
Many older adults worry about affording health care and support as they age, but LGBT individuals are even more at-risk financially. According to the Metlife study referenced earlier (please keep in mind, the study was conducted pre-Supreme Court decision), one in four (25%) of the surveyed LGBT individuals said they had plans to use long-term care insurance. Yet, only about one in six (15%) had actually purchased this coverage. Another 20% planned to rely on Medicaid for their long-term care needs, and 31% said they had other plans or were not sure how they would afford long-term care.
In particular, the Metlife study also found that lesbian and bisexual women appear to be less financially prepared for the end of life. They were “notably less likely than their male counterparts to have purchased long-term care insurance or to have written wills.” The Supreme Court’s decision to allow LGBT couples to enter a legally-recognized marriage certainly helped the gay senior population in terms of Social Security benefits or survivor benefits, but factors like wage gaps will still affect elderly LGBT couples. Additionally, those who choose not to marry may require planning now that they didn’t before the Supreme Court ruling.
If you or a loved one are part of or know members of the senior LGBT community, what has your/their aging experience looked like? What other big issues do you notice that have impacted your or their experience?