Dignity and Pride: A Snapshot of the Health Challenges and Needs of LGBT Older Adults

LGBT Older Adults

Dignity and Pride: A Snapshot of the Health Challenges and Needs of LGBT Older Adults

 

The elder LGBT community is diverse and growing. Estimates show that there are over 3 million LGBT adults over the age of 50, with that number growing fast to 7 million LGBT elders by 2030. While LGBT elders face the same concerns that all elders face- social isolation, loneliness, housing affordability, and ageism- research proves that the community encounters higher instances of the challenges just mentioned along with additional obstacles. 

Health and Wellness Challenge by the numbers: 

Compared to their heterosexual peers1, LGBT elders are:

  • Twice as likely to be single and live alone
  • Four times less likely to have children
  • Much more likely to have faced discrimination and social stigma
  • More likely to face poverty, homelessness, and poor general health

Cultural Competency

  • 20% avoid medical care out of fear of discrimination
  • Half of transgender individuals have had to teach their providers about transgender care

Discrimination

  • 2/3 of LGBT older adults that have experienced victimization at least three times in their lives 

Health Care

  • 1/3 of Transgender people that don’t have a regular doctor and report poor general health
  • 41%: Elder LGBT disability rate, higher than the 35% overall elder disability rate. 

HIV/AIDS

  • 1/2: Proportion of HIV-infected Americans over the age of 50
  • 15%: Percent of new HIV diagnoses coming from those 50 and older

Housing

  • 48 %: LGB couples facing adverse treatment when seeking senior housing; trans individuals face even higher rates
  • 1/2: Proportion of LGBT population living in states without housing discrimination laws

Legal/Financial

  • LGBT people are poorer and have fewer financial resources than their heterosexual counterparts
  • LGBT individuals are more likely to have received hiring or salary discrimination, creating a lifetime of lower earnings

Social Isolation

  • 60%: LGBT elders reporting a lack of companionship
  • 41%: rate of attempted suicide by transgender people

Wellness

  • 68% higher smoking rate among the LGBT community versus the general population

 

LGBT and the community: 

Contrary to popular belief, members of the LGBT community live in a variety of residences and community sizes. An AARP survey2 of older LGBT adults offers good snapshot and insight into the state of the communities that LGBT elders reside and the wants and needs of older adult respondents below. Encouragingly, 83 percent of respondents report that their community is very or somewhat LGBT friendly.

However, there are other worries. There are real housing and long-term care concerns that LGBT elders report. For minorities, LGBT discrimination concerns are compounded with race and ethnicity discrimination factors. 

While majorities of LGBT respondents reported having access to LGBT resources, a minority of LGBT older adults reported having access to LGBT senior resources, even in major cities.

The elder community overwhelmingly wants welcoming long-term care services designed for them. 90 percent also reported an interest in LGBT-friendly housing developments. 

Shaping the future: Despite the varied concerns and challenges facing the LGBT community, the LGBT elder population is resilient and remains optimistic about the future. 60 percent of the AARP study respondents are at least somewhat optimistic that the problems that they face will be solved within the next 20 years.

Healthcare providers and community leaders can positively impact the LGBT elder community by understanding the obstacles that the diverse members of the community face.

LGBT elders can overcome some of these concerns and age with dignity by finding support through chosen families and informal support networks. These include LGBT community organizations, gay-affirmative religious networks, and LGBT friendly providers of care like Chosen Family Home Care.

1https://www.sageusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/sageusa-the-facts-on-lgbt-aging.pdf

2https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/research/surveys_statistics/life-leisure/2018/maintaining-dignity-lgbt.doi.10.26419%252Fres.00217.001.pdf

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