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New Report: LGBTQ Elders Show Resilience Despite Barriers To Successful Aging

This article originally appeared on Huffington Post on May 25, 2017.

The two women’s stories shared in this video demonstrate the challenges that LGBT elders face as they age. Tina and Jackie were born in the same Virginia town in 1947. Despite their similar beginnings, the women’s lives take very different turns and a lifetime of discrimination, lost wages, lack of family recognition, and more add up to create substantial difficulties for Jackie.

Jackie’s story is all too common. America’s population is aging: by 2050, the number of people over the age of 65 will double to 83.7 million (from 43.1 million in 2012). While the public perception of LGBT people is largely one of a young, affluent community, there are more than 2.7 million LGBT adults ages 50 or older living in communities across the country, one in five of whom are older adults of color. A new report released today by the Movement Advancement Project and SAGE, Understanding Issues Facing LGBT Older Adults, provides a snapshot of the demographics of LGBT elders, an aging community that is diverse in terms of race and ethnicity, gender, and age.

The report details the many challenges facing LGBT older people like Jackie as they age. Health and wellbeing, economic security, and social connections are among the cornerstones for successful aging, yet these are areas in which many LGBT elders face substantial barriers–stemming from current discrimination as well as the accumulation of a lifetime of legal and structural discrimination, social stigma, and isolation.

The report offers high-level recommendations for addressing key disparities facing LGBT older adults including:

  • Passing comprehensive employment and housing nondiscrimination protections prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

  • Ensuring that all senior housing, assisted living, and nursing homes have explicit nondiscrimination policies and train staff on competently serving LGBT elders.

  • Revising federal and state programs to recognize the relationships of same-sex couples in which one partner died before the freedom to marry became available.

  • Designating LGBT elders as an underserved population within the Older Americans Act and within the Department of Health and Human Services, allowing government agencies to more easily target services

  • Passing the Restoration of Honor Act to make veterans discharged because of their sexual orientation or gender identity eligible for a number of programs, services, and benefits available at the state level.

To better understand the unique issues facing LGBT older adults, watch the video of Tina and Jackie’s experiences and share the report widely.

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