Despite advances in civil rights, many senior care providers never stop to consider that their older clients may be lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) — and even those who do may not know how to provide services in culturally-sensitive ways. As a result, LGBT seniors often avoid seeking needed services out of fear of discrimination.
The tendency for LGBT seniors to go “back in the closet” is particularly pronounced in situations where they are most vulnerable — such as when accessing home health care or residing in assisted living or residential care facilities. One study indicated that LGBT seniors may be as much as five times less likely to access needed health and social services because of their fear of discrimination from the very people who should be helping them.
This type of social isolation has an enormous impact in the health and wellbeing of LGBT seniors. With LGBT seniors twice as likely to live alone than heterosexual seniors, more than four times as likely to have no children, the informal caregiving support we assume is in place for older adults may not be there for LGBT elders.
Programs like SAGE offer an important “safety net” for LGBT elders. SAGE works with LGBT elders to address and overcome the challenges of discrimination in senior service settings, while also being an essential component in the creation of informal caregiving support, and development of new “family” networks.
Today, there are a growing number of retirement communities, senior housing and other high-end housing options targeting LGBT seniors. But for hundreds of thousands of LGBT seniors who will be aging in place in their own communities, SAGE programs and services provide the link they need to a safe and welcoming community. For more information, visit http://www.sageusa.org/