State, federal resources available for LGBT seniors
By Connecticut LTCOP
While many needs of the LGBT community are identical to those who are not LGBT, this community has experienced differences in their life that affect their engagement in the senior service system, including stigma and discrimination. Even though many social gains have been made in this era of "marriage equality," the historical and often contemporary experience of discrimination means that many LGBT persons are distrustful of the service system and reluctant to seek services. This results in a higher risk of social isolation.
Significant efforts are underway nationally and in Connecticut to respond to these facts and to work with service providers to provide open and affirming services. Nationally, the key resource is the National Center for LGBT Aging, www.lgbtagingcenter.org.
Available on the National LGBT Center for Aging website is a recent study commissioned by SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders). The study, Out and Visible: The Experiences and Attitudes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Older Adults, Ages 45-75, outlines some of the different experiences that affect LGBT seniors, and how the senior service community can resolve to change them.
Findings in the study conclude several key areas of interest for this growing community.
- Quality of life: This report found that the LGBT community, like their mainstream counterparts, seek to spend their elder years enjoying leisure, travel and volunteer activities, including serving as mentors later in life.
- Financial Security: Polling found that this community had greater concerns than the non-LGBT group with financial security and 'outliving' their money.
- Healthcare: The LGBT community reported a "fear of judgment and inferior care from healthcare providers, with many LGBT older people not disclosing their sexual orientations or gender identities to their providers"
- Loss of community: As they grow older, the LGBT community has seen their support systems shrink, with larger numbers of LGBT older people living alone, and fearing discrimination in housing and long-term care settings.
Senior service providers must be cognizant of these needs and educate themselves to become more open and affirming to LGBT seniors, especially because LGBT elders also are less likely to be embedded in biological families, the primary source of much elder care.
In Connecticut, there is a new initiative, LGBT Aging Advocacy, which is helping to increase the awareness of differences and unique needs for the aging LGBT community. The initiative is a collaboration among community members, service providers and Connecticut state agencies.
Organized in August 2013, LGBT Aging Advocacy over the last year has made significant progress in their efforts, including working with the Connecticut AARP to purchase distribution rights for multiple statewide showings and discussion panels of "GenSilent," a 2010 documentary film, which follows the lives of six LGBT seniors living in the Boston. The film highlights the journey of these seniors, who must choose if they will hide their sexuality in order to survive in the long-term health care system.
The Connecticut LBGT Aging Advocacy initiative also held a well-attended LGBT Aging Advocacy Open House in October 2014 to announce the group and its efforts. To further raise awareness, the group has delivered several LGBT Aging Advocacy overview presentations, participated in radio and other community information events, and supported the successful development of an LGBT cultural competency grant proposal. The grant proposal was funded and work began in January 2015. The LBGT Aging Advocacy group also has developed a brochure to help community members find open and affirming service providers: "Finding Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Affirming Care Services As You Age."
Raising awareness and support of these initiatives and events will ensure an open and affirming environment for the Connecticut LGBT community and its seniors. Contact the Connecticut LGBT Aging Advocacy initiative for more information.