Visibility has always been a driving force in the equality movement, and that’s no less true when it comes to seniors.
For years, the prospect of aging has often been cause for a joke or for dread in the community. But as we join the growing ranks of the senior population in the U.S., their visibility is increasing as well.
According to the American Psychological Association, there are 2.4 million LGBTQ seniors in the U.S. That number is projected to reach seven million by 2030.
While aging presents challenges for anyone, it presents unique challenges for seniors in this demographic. There are many organizations tailoring help to the needs of LGBTQ seniors. To meet the growing demands on services, these groups will have to grow and be joined by others.
Whether you’re a senior yourself or someone looking to help a friend or family member, here are some of the valuable resources available to you.
For more than 40 years, SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) has been leading the way in the fight for respect and dignity for the community’s seniors. SAGE started the nation’s first visiting program for homebound LGBT seniors, the first drop-in center, and the first support group for seniors with HIV. While based in New York City, SAGE has affiliates in more than 25 cities around the country.
SAGE should be one of the first stops for anyone looking for elder resources. No matter where you are, you can access the rich library of resources that SAGE has posted on its website. SAGE’s National Resource Center on LGBT Aging is aptly billed as an “information powerhouse.” There you can find publications, fact sheets, guides, and assistance on nearly 1,000 topics–everything from finances to coming out later in life. Many resources are dedicated to helping agencies serving seniors do a better job serving LGBTQ elders, ensuring that the good work that SAGE has been doing spreads more widely.
With 38 million members, AARP is the largest organization advocated for seniors. While many members take advantage of the discounts offered with membership, AARP also has a channel dedicated to LGBT Pride. The site includes articles, such as lessons from the AIDS epidemic and safety tips for travelers.
But AARP also offers a rich array of resources for seniors, with special attention to inclusion. Added to that is AARP’s own research about the needs of LGBTQ elders, as well as its advocacy, including support for the federal Equality Act. Altogether, AARP offers up-to-date information with behind-the-scenes support to improve the lives of elders.
3. National LGBT Senior Hotline
For seniors feeling isolated, sometimes just talking to a friendly voice helps. Part of the LGBT National Help Center, the Hotline provides callers age 50 and older free and confidential peer support and information. If you call, you’ll talk to a highly trained volunteer there to give you support and affirmation. The volunteers also have access to a large database to connect callers to local resources near them.
4. National Center for Transgender Equality
The disparities and barriers that gay and lesbian seniors face are even greater for transgender elders. Both the health care system and the aging care network are often ill-equipped to meet the needs of transgender older people. NCTE offers resources on aging for transgender people that identify the issues they face and the services and rights to which they are entitled.
5. Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA)
Access to good and appropriate health care is a special challenge. GLMA can help with one part of that challenge with its database of LGBTQ-friendly health care providers. You can search for providers –doctors, specialists, therapists, and dentists–free of charge, with the knowledge that the provider will be sensitive to your needs and concerns.
Note: This list is far from exhaustive. Many sites about aging generally offer important information for LGBTQ seniors. You can find the list of those sites at the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging. Moreover, many LGBTQ organizations provide help and services that seniors might find useful.