The Forgotten Generation
Let’s face it: Aging is challenging enough, even in the best of circumstances. No matter what, getting older tends to mean dealing with more health issues and living on less income, while trying to stay relevant in a youth-obsessed society.
So imagine just how tough life would be if you had to face old age completely alone.
Imagine if you had no husband or wife to grow old with, and no kids whom you could count on to check in on you.
For many older adults who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, this is the reality of life. Compared to their straight counterparts, gay and transgender elders are twice as likely to live alone, twice as likely to age as a single person and four times more likely to have no children to call in an emergency. Not surprisingly, they are at greater risk for depression, substance abuse, mental and physical health complications, unnecessary institutionalization and premature death.
With nearly 3 million gay and transgender elders living in the U.S—a number that is likely to double by 2030—it’s time we gave a damn.
More marginalized, isolated, vulnerable
Older adults are already alienated in our society. But for gay and transgender seniors, the challenges of getting older are compounded with a multitude of other issues, making them even more marginalized, more isolated and more vulnerable than older adults who are straight.
Consider: Informal caregivers—mostly children, grandchildren and other relatives—provide 80% of the long-term care in the U.S. Yet up to 75% of gay and transgender older adults live alone, 80% age without a life partner or significant other and 90% have no children.
Ultimately, 1 in 5 say they would have no one to call in a crisis, a rate 10 times greater than for the rest of the senior population.
Imagine facing an emergency—and having absolutely no one to call for help.
And while social services for older adults do exist, lifelong experiences with discrimination have made gay and transgender elders 5 times less likely to access the necessary services than straight seniors.
These fears are real: According to one survey of agencies serving seniors in the U.S., half of all respondents reported that if the sexual orientation of gay older adults were known, they would not be welcomed at senior centers. Even when providers mean well, they often lack the training to offer culturally sensitive services that meet the needs of gay and transgender older adults.
Imagine being afraid to seek help—help that you desperately need—because you’ll be exposed to prejudice and discrimination.
No safety net, either
Even having a life partner does not put gay and transgender elders on equal footing with straight older adults. That’s because the federal “safety net”—the end-of-life provisions and protections provided by the federal government—does not extend to same-sex couples. For example, Medicaid protects the homes and assets of a married couple when one of them enters a nursing home—but it doesn’t do the same for life partners. And unlike a married person, a life partner does not receive Social Security survivor benefits when their loved one passes.
Imagine having to worry about where you will live and how you can afford to eat while you are grieving over the loss of or separation from your husband or wife.
It’s time we gave a damn about our nation’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender older adults.
Because getting older is tough enough, without the added burden of financial insecurity.
Because no one should have to live with isolation and loneliness as their only companions.
And because we all should be allowed to age with dignity.
It’s time for things to change.
JOIN GIVE A DAMN!
Knowledge is power. We all need to stay informed.
- Download the Damn PDF about Older Adults
- Watch one of our Damn Videos or read people’s Personal Stories
- Check out our Damn Blog
- Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube
Spread the word. Encourage the people in your life to get involved—especially if they’re straight and have never given this issue a lot of thought. Simply:
- Share one of our Damn Videos or someone’s Personal Story
- Share Your Personal Story
- Download and use some Damn Stuff
GET MORE INFORMED AND INVOLVED
Visit our nonprofit partner’s website; they’re experts on older adults. They can provide you a ton of additional resources and ways to get involved:
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Get informed and get involved. Register to join the campaign and let us know you give a damn about equality.
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Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender EldersURL: http://www.sageusa.org
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