Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Senior LGBT Issues

I found a great website called SageUSA, which stands for "Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transsexual Elders."  Of course, the first thing I wanted to know was what exactly are the issues that LGBT elders in America are dealing with (elders defined as 65+).  Sage has a great page on this that gives short, 3-4 sentence blurbs on six main issues that LGBT elders have, with a link at the end of each blurb to more information on each issue. The issues it discusses are:

1. The large number of LGBT elders there are in America.  Current estimates stand at 1.5 million, but are guessed to be twice as many by 2030.  Sage mentions that this number is hard to estimate considering that many people are still in the closet, even when they are 65+, and the various surveys they gather from have different ways of asking questions, which can all be perceived differently.

2. More LGBT elders deal with poverty than heterosexual couples.  This effect is a direct consequence of the discrimination we've been learning about in class.

3. A large proportion of elderly LGBT people deal with a serious health problems.  This ratio was found in a 2011 national health survey, which quoted the following numbers: 50+% have been told they have depression by a doctor; 39% have seriously thought about suicide; and 53% feel isolated.

4. Discrimination and stigmas still affect LGBT people, even as elders. These people are more likely to live alone, be single, and not have children, and have also been estranged by their biological families, thus influencing point 3 about having a high rate of depression, and suicide and isolation thoughts.

5. LGBT elders feel mistreated at long term care facilities.  Again, discrimination plays a huge role in the lives of LGBT elders.  78% of them do not feel they can be open about their sexual orientations, reflected by the 89% who feel they would be treated differently.  43% feel they have been mistreated based on their orientation.

6. There are communities for LGBT elders, but they are rare and underfunded.  Only 8% of 320 different area/state aging units offer specific programs for LGBT people, and only 12% offer outreach to them.  (In case you don't know, an aging unit is a location meant to "administer, manage, desigh, and advocate for benefits, programs, and services for the elderly and their families and, in many states, for adults with physical disabilities." USA.gov aging unit site )

Thus, we can see an overall trend of societal stigmas and discrimination affecting the life of an LGBT person at any point in their life.  These ideas even affect them when they should be well care for or helped.

The website has many other resources, including an extensive section breaking down each of the six issues mentioned above into smaller issues that get explored more deeply with information on how you can help.  Another great resource on this site is the Sage Story section which allows current LGBT elders to tell their stories.  This section caters to any method you would like to access a story, through pictures, videos, audio, or prose.  This site also has a News Section that posts recent updates and stories from around the nation.  The articles are written by Sage workers, but link to the original story as well. 

Overall, I think it's a great resource for people who would like to stay in touch with elder LGBT issues and how they are proceeding.


  1. I think this is an extremely important issue to bring light to in the context of LGBT issues. We have been talking a lot recently in my Psychology of Women course about the interactions between sexism and ageism. The elderly are often rendered sexless in the media, which contributes to and perpetuates the notion that their sexuality is not important. Ageism is a problem that many people do not take seriously, so all of the alarming statistics you posted crucial in bringing awareness to these issues.

  2. I agree completely with Cecily that Crystal's statistics are instrumental to raising awareness on the state of elderly LGBT members. I stumbled across an article from 2009 in the NYTimes on the survival of lesbian communes. Crystal outlines the financial difficulties of many LGBT retirement communities and this is true for lesbian communes as well. The article discusses the struggles of lesbian communes today and as well as briefly describing the evolution of feminism and the desire for "women's space" (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/01/fashion/01womyn.html?pagewanted=all&_r=3&).