June is Pride Month! It’s an opportunity to celebrate the beauty of diversity.
While we celebrate, it is also important to talk about a group that tends to be overlooked, LGBT seniors.
There are 2.7 million older adults in the United States that identify as LGBT. It is likely that there are even more LGBT elders who may not identify as such due to stigma or fear of discrimination. LGBT seniors are diverse with special needs.
Dr. Karen Fredricksen-Goldsen refers to three LGBT elder generations. Those born in and before the 1920s and are known as the “Invisible Generation” because they were born at a time where LGBT people were not discussed in the mainstream. Those born in the 1930s and 1940s are members of the “Silent Generation;" they were born at a time when there was an outcry against LGBT people. Those those born in the 1950s and 1960s are part of the “Pride Generation”: the generation of the Stonewall riots and civil rights movements.
Recently Advocacy and Services of LGBT Elders (SAGE) teamed up with Movement Advancement Project (MAP) to report on the unique challenges that LGBT elders face. The report found that as they age, those who identify as LGBT face unique obstacles and challenges. LGBT seniors have experienced a lifetime of discrimination which has impacted their economic security, health, housing, and more. Below are highlights from the report Understanding Issues Facing LGBT Older Adults.
As a result of a lifetime of discrimination LGBT elders are more likely to be economically insecure. The SAGE-MAP report found that one third of LGBT older adults live at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Line. It also showed that LGBT seniors have experienced some form of employment discrimination in their lives. As a result many were unable to gain marketable skills and made less money over their lifetime. Additionally, LGBT couples were often barred from gaining spousal benefits or other family protections prior to the passage of marriage equality.
LGBT elders struggle with navigating a complex health care system. Many of them fear that providers will discriminate against them. The SAGE-MAP report shows that LGBT older adults have experienced some form of harassment in care facilities ranging from verbal and physical harassment from other residents to neglect from staff. We also see a lack of quality care to address specific needs. As a result seniors who are LGBT show a higher rate of psychological distress and poorer health outcomes.
Unfortunately, LGBT older adults also face housing discrimination. Only 20 states in the United States prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, there is also a lack of welcoming housing for seniors. Many aging providers do not consider the unique needs of LGBT older adults, leaving them at risk for isolation and discrimination. That is why it is crucial for service providers to gain the necessary cultural competency skills in order to best serve clients.
Here at H.O.M.E. we recently announced our Welcoming LGBT Seniors at H.O.M.E. Initiative. Thanks to a grant from the LGBT Community Fund at The Chicago Community Trust, H.O.M.E. will provide cultural competency training to our staff, ensure that our policies and practices are inclusive, and work to create an accepting culture in our intergenerational houses.
Want to get involved in the work we do here at H.O.M.E. ? Find out how!
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