National Study Finds LGBT Seniors Face Harder Old Age

'Stonewall' Generation Struggles With Old Age

A recent study released by the University of Washington's School of Social Work is turning attention toward a group of seniors who face unique (and ignored) needs; a group whose numbers are expected to be more than 4 million by 2030--lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) boomers.

Researchers surveyed 2,560 LGBT adults aged 50-95 across the United States, to find that they had greater rates of disability, depression, loneliness and distress compared with heterosexuals of similar ages. Further highlighted by the study were the unique needs of this aging group, such as fear of discrimination, the lack of children to depend on as caregivers and less social support and financial security with age, as older LGBT adults are less likely to be partnered or married than heterosexuals.

Presenting some of the study's key findings during a congressional briefing last week, Karen Fredriksen-Goldsen, the study's lead author, told HealthCanal:

"The health disparities reflect the historical and social context of their lives, and the serious adversity they have encountered can jeopardize their health and willingness to seek services in old age."

Thus, Fredriksen-Goldsen calls for for senior housing, transportation, legal services and social events for LGBT seniors.

SmartMoney brings to attention the recent progress that has been made for LGBT retirees and seniors, citing the growth from the only few senior housing developments specifically for gays and lesbians a decade ago to the now dozen or so. Yet despite continuing-care developments, affordable retiree housing and community drop-in senior centers catered specifically to gays and lesbians and a greater number of options than ever before, Fredriksen-Goldsen and other experts feels this may not be enough.

The study points out that this neglected group continues to experience higher levels of illness, disability and premature death regardless of the ample strides made in health during that last century. Nearly four out of 10 LGBT older adults surveyed had considered suicide at some point. The study reports that 13 percent have been denied healthcare or received inferior care while more than 20 percent of participants do not disclose their sexual or gender identity to their physician due to fear of such discrimination.

With traditional community developers uninterested in niche developments, retirement options for gays and lesbians will likely remain limited; and while one safe haven plans to open it's doors, another closes.

The New York Times reports that RainbowVision filed for bankruptcy this past summer, mirroring other gay retirement communities who have fallen victim to the deflated economy or failed to open to begin with. Nonetheless, in the same fashion of resilience as their study's participants, researchers contend that illuminating such inequalities experienced by the Stonewall generation is the first step in creating a legacy for generations to come.

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