The Plight of LGBT Older Adults

Tue. June 7, 2011 12:00 AM
by Bill Pritchard

Now more than ever the need to take care of our seniors; regardless of their orientation, is at an all time high! Not only have they paved the way, provided, and led us to great prosperity (Compared to their generation); they have earned our respect and deserve to live out the remainder of their days in health and happiness.

Recently, PBS aired a documentary on LGBT elderly. Titled A Place to Live: The Story of Triangle Square , it was a look at the development of the country's first affordable housing facility for LGBT seniors in Los Angeles. I couldn't take my eyes off the television! There are countless LGBT older adults who need a place to live; not to mention the low income status that many of them have due to high cost of living, poor planning, and skyrocketing medical bills that they all face.

The documentary walked the viewer through the steps of some who made it into the new LGBT home, and others that did not. It was heartbreaking on all fronts! I couldn't help but to think of my Parents, if they had to go through this lottery of sorts, just to live.

Should our seniors be forced to worry and wonder if they will get proper health care, living, food, and companionship? Should they?!

What can be done for these saints; many of whom fought for our rights long before our birth? Who will fight for them that fought for us at Stonewall, the Castro, and in Chicago's Boystown?

Thank God for groups like SAGE! (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders) With groups in New York , Chicago , and across the nation through the National Research Center on LGBT Aging . (A project of SAGE, in partnership with
American Society on Aging, CenterLink, FORGE Transgender Aging Network, GRIOT Circle, Hunter College, The LGBT Aging Project, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, National Council on Aging's National Institute of Senior Centers, Openhouse, and PHI

Many LGBT older adults avoid needed services out of fear of discrimination. They even tend to go back in the closet when they move into an assisted living situation or elderly retirement home.

SAGE, sites one study that indicated that LGBT older adults may be as much as five times less likely to access needed health and social services because they fear discrimination from health workers. Keep in mind, most of these folks lived during a time of great discrimination towards the LGBT community. It's what they know.

This social isolation has an enormous negative impact on the health and well-being of LGBT older adults; most who are likely to live alone and, more than four times as likely to have no children. We as a community need to step up to the plate and serve LGBT older adults in the community they built for us!

Of course the plight of older adults doesn't just apply to the LGBT community. All across this globe, older adults face challenges many in mid-life would find a challenge. This just shouldn't be the case.

I was talking with a taxi driver in car #2875 the other day in Chicago. Clearly was above the age of seventy-five. I asked him how business was and got more than I had anticipated in response. "Business, like life, is great!" he said. "You really have to have a good outlook on life.". In full agreement I asked him where he learned that from. He told me that it was his mom that instilled that positive outlook on him more than eight years ago.

Well, I don't have to tell you that we spent the next ten minutes talking about our great parents. When I asked him about his kids, he regrettably told me that they don't make time for him any more. I tried to be as positive as I could, but what he said made me so sad. How on earth could his children abdicate their responsibility and moral obligation? Is a phone call, email, note, or visit too much in return for countless years of parenting that he gave?

This unfortunate problem facing LGBT older adults is a problem that faces us all. It's only a matter of time before we all will be in their shoes. Who will be there for us? Will there be members of the LGBT community that will provide services to assist us? What can we do today? Groups like SAGE and the National Research Center on LGBT Aging give countless opportunities for all of us to be involved in the lives of our community's older adults. I say its time to make time for them!

If you would like to order A Place to Live: The Story of Triangle Square go to