Older adults in the LGBTQ+ community face unique problems and prejudices that their cisgendered and heterosexual peers may be unaware of. According to the American Psychological Association, an estimated 2.4 million people in the U.S. 65 years or older identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
Problems LGBTQ+ Older Adults Face
- Homophobia in the form of hate, ignorance, and prejudice.
- Domestic violence.
- Fear of loss of friendships or other relationships.
- Social isolation.
- Lack of familial support network.
- Trying to “blend in” against their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Denial of access to services based on inability to “prove” their orientation or identity.
- Denial of economic opportunities or health services because of discrimmination.
LGBTQ+ victims of elder abuse may fail to seek help, because they fear revealing their sexual orientation or identity. This fear exists, especially if there is a risk of this information being used against them to hurt their reputation, relationships, or livelihoods.
What You Can Do
Ally and Advocate
Keep the conversation alive! Local, state, and federal advocates help move forward policies that protect the rights of LGBTQ+ older adults. By calling your representive and speaking up about their needs and concerns, your presence and voice keeps ignorance away.
Does your local senior center have an ally group or LGBTQ+ support group? If not, that’s an untapped opportunity to create a supportive and caring group of individuals that care about the needs and rights of those facing discrimmination.
There’s strength in numbers, and by becoming an ally, it can bring others who were once unaware or unwilling to light of these issues and acceptance and understanding. We encourage you to spread awareness and invite your friends and family to support the needs of LGBTQ+ older adults. Every voice matters and the voice of many reaches far!
Sometimes, discrimmination happens when people lack understanding or information. By educating others on the problems LGBTQ+ older adults face, you are helping to fix the problem.
The National Council on Aging suggests 5 Ways for Senior Centers to Improve Outreach to LGBT Older Adults that remain relevant today, from organization trainings to providing inclusion, awareness, and acceptance programs.
Seattle Parks and Recreation keeps a list of community events supporting LGBTQ+ communities. You can register to attend an event and use this opportunity to invite others to join you.
Cook-Daniels L. Lesbian, gay male, bisexual and transgendered elders: elder abuse and neglect issues. 2002. http://forge-forward.org/wp-content/docs/LGBT-Elder-abuse.pdf.