Planning for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Seniors

The New Jersey legislature is currently engaged in a debate about same sex marriage. Regardless of the outcome of the debate, aging and health needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older adults are rarely addressed in services and policies even though diversity is a defining feature of our aging population. As LGBT people age, finding suitable retirement housing can be a unique challenge.  Some facilities allow only married couples to live together, and many seniors fear a cold shoulder from staff or fellow seniors.

A recent published report entitled, “Disparities and Resilience among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Older Adults,” outlines higher rates of disability among lesbian, gay, bisexual older adults compared with heterosexuals of similar age.  You can read the complete study at http://caringandaging.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Full-Report-FINAL-11-16-11.pdf.

The reports key findings include:

  • Nearly 1/2 have a disability and nearly 1/3 report depression.91% of LGBT older adults engage in wellness activities.
  • Almost 2/3rds have been victimized three or more times.
  • 13% have been denied health care or received inferior care.
  • More than 20% do not disclose their sexual or gender identities to their physicians.
  • About 1/3rd do not have a will or durable power of attorney for health care.
  • Needed services: senior housing, transportation, legal services, social events.

It is imperative to understand the diverse population of LGBT older adults in order to ensure a healthier aging population in the years to come.

Some retirement communities have begun to cater specifically to LGBT seniors, but more needs to be done.  Advocates for the LGBT community say that a growing number of going back in the closet in order to find a retirement community that will accept them.  Also, one of the biggest barriers to finding welcoming housing is a lack of sensitivity among staff.

In order to address many of these issues, our office has scheduled two continuing education professional seminars entitled, “Long-Term Care Planning for Non-Traditional Couples” scheduled for April 3, 2012 in New Jersey and April 18, 2012 in Pennsylvania.  Please refer to our website for specific locations and times.  We hope you can join us for this important discussion.

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