>Research comparing LGBT seniors with their straight counterparts has shown some key differences that have profound implications for those in the LGBT communities and for providers serving LGBT seniors. The Brookdale Center on Aging in New York City found that LGBT seniors have significantly diminished support networks when compared to the general senior population. These findings show that:1
This means that when they are compared to seniors in the general population, LGBT seniors are:
As a result, the LGBT community is much more reliant on and has much greater need for professional social services and formal support systems in their old age than seniors in the mainstream. But unfortunately, the studies have shown that LGBT seniors do not access the programs and services they need. In fact,they are five times less likely to access senior services than the general senior population.
Another survey of agencies serving seniors in the US showed that fully 50% of LGBT seniors would not be welcomed at senior centers if their sexual orientation were known.3 And with good reason; the majority of mainstream providers are heterosexist; they assume that all the old people they serve are straight. It's an assumption that affects programming and social service delivery, the language used for intake, for the discussion of relationships, for life reminiscing and many other programming activities, and it serves to marginalize and alienate the 3 million LGBT seniors across the nation.4 So, many LGBT seniors feel they have no choice but to go back into the closet if they want to access mainstream senior services.
Providers do not know enough about LGBT people, especially LGBT People of Color and of transgender experience. And it's only recently that issues confronting people of "intersex" experience become part of LGBT discussion and research.5 Efforts are being made to improve the situation, but until such time as that happens, it's up to us to inform and educate the providers. This may be difficult, but it's the only way change can be effected.
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