LGBT Seniors Face Unique Challenges

The aging LGBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered) population faces unique legal, financial and social challenges which puts many LGBT seniors at risk for poverty and discrimination.  Many of these issues are addressed in a new report, released June 2016, sponsored by Justice in Aging.

Older LGBT adults may face housing or employment discrimination and although equal access to marriage has been made more widely available, many seniors need legal assistance to ensure spousal benefits or complete name change documents.

Projected poverty among older Americans is expected to grow along with the number of seniors in our population over the next 20 to 40 years as baby boomers reach retirement age and beyond. The number of LGBT older adults is projected to double by 2030 to 3 million, according to a recent report by the National Alliance for Caregiving.  LGBT seniors are more vulnerable to poverty after a lifetime of lower earnings due to discrimination and the lack of financial benefits of marriage or partner pension benefits.  They are also more likely to suffer from social isolation and a smaller family support system.

According to a 2012 national survey by Forum Research, 2.6 per cent of Canadians over the age of 55 say they are LGBT and this group is twice as likely as other seniors to live alone and four and a half times less likely to have to children to help them in old age.  LGBT seniors are also five times less likely to access senior services fearing homophobia and discrimination.  Caregivers in the LGBT community also face more isolation and receive less support and social services than other caregivers.

LGBT seniors who require long-term often fear discrimination in assisted living facilities and many report going “back in the closet” to protect themselves.  There is a growing need for better training by long term care providers along with more diverse hiring practices to better serve the LGBT elder population.

Very few inclusive senior housing development are available for older LGBT adults, but Fudger House in Toronto is the first Canadian municipal long-term care initiative with a focus on diversity training and inclusive housing.  For American resources on LGBT aging, visit the National Resource Center website.

To read the full Justice in Aging report and learn more about legal resources for LGBT seniors follow this link.

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