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Checking In With LGBTQ Elders

Checking In With LGBTQ Elders

We are lucky that there is an elderly LGBTQ population. That hasn’t always been the case. These older adults have survived an inhospitable political environment, health epidemics, and decades of discrimination and legal barriers. As they age, LGBTQ people face unique challenges that require our collective attention and understanding. As we check in on the well-being of LGBTQ seniors, we must acknowledge the hurdles they face and explore ways to support them, both as caregivers and as community members.

There are several reasons why the aging LGBTQ community’s unique experience over the past few decades makes it more challenging for them to get older:

Social isolation: Many LGBTQ elders live alone, separated from biological families either by choice or circumstance, which can lead to feelings of isolation. Older LGBTQ adults are twice as likely to be single and live alone. They are four times less likely to have children. With fewer children and often a smaller circle of close family members, these elders might not have the support system that other seniors have.

Health disparities: LGBTQ seniors often experience health disparities linked to lifelong discrimination and stress. This demographic is at a higher risk for certain chronic conditions and mental health issues, and may face neglect or discrimination in healthcare settings. Older transgender individuals face numerous health barriers including inadequate access to healthcare professionals who are knowledgeable and sensitive to their needs.

Economic hardship: Discrimination in the workplace and gaps in work history—often a result of discriminatory hiring and retention practices—mean that many LGBTQ elders face financial instability. This economic reality can affect their ability to afford quality healthcare, senior housing if they need it, and other necessary services.

Lack of legal protection: Although significant progress has been made, many LGBTQ elders come from a generation when legal protections were nonexistent. This lack of legal recognition has long-term effects, including problems with estate planning, inheritance rights, and even the authority to make medical decisions for a partner.

The challenges faced by LGBTQ elders are not just a product of their immediate circumstances but are deeply rooted in a lifetime of societal attitudes. Historical prejudice means that older LGBTQ individuals are more likely to have experienced violence, rejection, and discrimination. The cumulative effect of such experiences can lead to what experts call “minority stress,” which significantly impacts both mental and physical health.

Support for LGBTQ elders must be multifaceted and community-driven. Here are some ways everyone can help:

Inclusive environments: Retirement communities and nursing homes need training and policies that explicitly include and protect LGBTQ residents. This can help in creating a safe environment where LGBTQ elders feel valued and included.

Advocacy and legal support: Continued advocacy for comprehensive legal protections is crucial. This includes support for laws that prevent discrimination in housing, healthcare, and employment, along with ensuring that LGBTQ elders receive equitable treatment under the law, especially in matters of family law and elder rights.

Social support networks: Building community groups and social networks can help reduce isolation. This can be facilitated through local community centers, online platforms, and through events specifically designed for LGBTQ elders.

Educational programs: Healthcare providers, caregivers, and the general public must be educated about the specific needs of LGBTQ elders. Training programs that focus on sensitivity, inclusiveness, and the particular health challenges faced by LGBTQ seniors are essential.

Financial assistance programs: Because many LGBTQ elders face financial instability, it is important to support and create access to financial planning services and assistance programs that can provide help with housing, medical expenses, and other necessities.

It is imperative for all of us to understand the special aging challenges that LGBTQ people may face and do what we can to support them. Their well-being is a reflection of our values and our commitment to ensuring that all members of our community can age with dignity and respect.

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise

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