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09.20.2014
Social Isolation



Social isolation affects many LGBT older people around the country as they deal with stigma and discrimination in their daily lives and in our country's aging system.

The primary risk factors for social isolation affect LGBT older adults in unique and disproportionate ways. LGBT elders are more likely to live alone and with thinner support networks. Additionally, the research shows that LGBT elders face higher disability rates, struggle with economic insecurity and higher poverty rates, and many deal with mental health concerns that come from having survived a lifetime of discrimination. Location-related barriers, coupled with stigma and discrimination, can make it difficult for LGBT older people in many parts of the country to find the LGBT-friendly community supports they need to age successfully and avoid social isolation. SAGE's innovative programs around the country help LGBT elders deal with these risk factors, from employment resources to online information about caregiving, and much more.

Key Facts

One obstacle facing all aging Americans is the risk of social isolation. As adults near retirement age, they may become isolated over time from their broader communities (places of worship, work settings, etc.), as well as from friends and family. This phenomenon means, among other consequences, smaller and lower quality support networks, debilitating feelings of loneliness and depression, and at its worst, an estranged life where one's physical and mental health deteriorates.

The primary risk factors for social isolation affect LGBT older adults in unique and disproportionate ways. For example, one primary risk factor is living alone. LGBT older people are twice as likely to live alone, twice as likely to be single, and 3 to 4 times less likely to have children—and many are estranged from their biological families. See a presentation on the caregiving challenges facing LGBT elders.

Other risk factors for social isolation include mobility or sensory impairments, socio-economic status, and psychological or cognitive vulnerabilities. The research shows that LGBT elders face higher disability rates, struggle with economic security and higher poverty rates, and many LGBT elders deal with mental health concerns that come from a lifetime of discrimination that has had psychological and materials costs.

The hardships associated with being a caregiver can also place the caregiver at risk for social isolation, yet few supports for caregivers consider the unique needs of LGBT families. SAGE's award-winning SAGECAP program offers critical supports for LGBT caregivers in New York City and around the country. Read more about SAGECAP.

Major life transitions such as the death of a loved one or the loss of a job can also disrupt an elder's stability and lead to social isolation. SAGE's innovative services around the country help LGBT elders address employment barriers as they age, and provide LGBT-friendly supports, such as those offered at The SAGE Center throughout New York City.

Location-related barriers, coupled with stigma and discrimination, can make it difficult for LGBT elders in many parts of the country to find the community supports they need to age successfully and avoid social isolation. Our growing network of SAGE affiliates is meeting these needs in various parts of the country, and our online resources help reach LGBT elders in every part of the country. Read through our caregiving resources at SAGE's National Resource Center on LGBT Aging.

Policymakers can help prevent social isolation among LGBT older people by supporting laws that mandate LGBT-friendly services and supports—including those funded through the Older Americans Act. With the introduction of a new bill that could improve supports for LGBT elders, Congress has an opportunity to improve the lives of millions of LGBT elders. Learn more about SAGE's efforts on OAA.


To learn more about social isolation and LGBT elders, please contact Robert Espinoza, Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications, at 212-741-2247 or at respinoza@sageusa.org.

To see what events are coming up at SAGE, visit our calendar.


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