lgbt seniors

An Inside Look At Caring For LGBT Seniors

The LGBT community of seniors is growing. The UCLA’s Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law estimate that 1.5 million people over the age of 65 identify themselves as being gay, lesbian, and bisexual. The same report indicated that they expect those numbers to double by 2030, making it imperative to recognize the needs of LGBT seniors throughout the U.S.
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LGBT Seniors Infographic

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Issues Faced by LGBT Seniors

Seniors that identify as LGBT often face stigma and other issues that their non-LGBT peers don’t have to deal with. A lifetime of stigma causes LGBT seniors to face such issues as:

  1. Higher poverty rates than other seniors
  2. Stigma and discrimination around sexual orientation
  3. Lack of family compassion and support

Because these seniors grew up in a time when these differences weren’t as acceptable, they often have trouble being open about their sexual orientation, causing them to live a life in hiding. Many have high levels of insecurities that create undue emotional burdens such as:

  • Stress and strife
  • Conflict with family
  • Troubled relationships
  • Social isolation
  • Depression

The racial discrimination they have faced continues long into their retirement years as they are often without adequate benefits that married couples can count on in their later years. Here are some of the things that LGBT seniors miss out on:

  • Social Security survivor benefits causing them to lose out on as $28,152 a year by not having a spouse in their life.
  • Many don’t have children to care for them in later years.
  • Biological families often estrange themselves from their lives, causing vast loneliness.
  • Mental health is also a concern with LGBT seniors as they often don’t receive the proper care to address these issues.

Special Care for LGBT Seniors

Taking care of an LGBT senior requires special consideration as they have emotional needs that need to be recognized by their caregivers. Because so much time has been spent hiding their sexual orientation, they are often slow to discuss or display their emotions on this topic, and it can be difficult for them to be open about their specific needs.

It is important that caregivers provide for these needs in a way that makes these aging adults feel more comfortable. Special programs and services designed to care for LGBT seniors are lacking throughout the country. To make matters worse, many LGBT seniors don’t express the needs that they have when it comes to being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Providing LGBT Housing and Services

Progress is being made in certain parts of the country related to LGBT senior housing. While not as widespread as is needed, this housing can offer LGBT seniors a safe haven to commune with like-minded individuals in their age group.

In the past, LGBT senior housing has been limited as discrimination against this population has been common and not regulated. Certain groups are partnering together to form senior housing options that are specific to the LGBT community such as:

  • SAGE
  • HELP USA
  • BFC Partners

These groups offer support and LGBT services that are specifically developed around the requirements of the senior citizen age group.

Offering LGBT seniors the opportunity to live in housing that caters to their diversity can alleviate many of the problems that this population is often faced with. Safe housing alleviates solation as they are now among a community that fully supports their lifestyle and skills can be introduced to allow them to live more productive lives.

LGBT Senior Training for Caregivers

The stigma surrounding LGBT seniors is reducing as many caregivers recognize the demands that these individuals have. More emphasis has been placed on training caregivers to be considerate of LGBT seniors, allowing for more compassion within this community of aging adults.

Caring for an LGBT senior requires a unique set of skills by caregivers. With the proper training and compassion, a caregiver can provide this community with the following:

  • A welcoming environment where they can live their life
  • Compassion
  • Understanding
  • An insight into the experiences that LGBT seniors have struggled with throughout their lives
  • Physical support
  • Mental support
  • Emotional support
  • Familial support

Training of caregivers for LGBT seniors can offer the necessary tools and techniques to work with these individuals in a way that coincides with the changes in society and acceptance of their lifestyle. Training can help LGBT seniors receive the care they need while reducing many of the life problems that they are experiencing as they age.

Sources:

[I] http://www.lgbtagingcenter.org/
[II] http://www.sageusa.org/issues/general.cfm
[III] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/lgbt-seniors/