Getting old is hard. Whether it’s waging war against wrinkles and gray hair or fighting more serious battles related to health and independence, the struggle is real. And the challenges are particularly pronounced for older generations who identify as LGBTQ+.
DeeWho is Dee?
Hi! I’m here to help you explore the issues impacting older LGBTQ+ adults. This is a population that has faced discrimination throughout their lives, which has made the process of getting older different, too. In this section, we explore the unique challenges and opportunities that come with aging while LGBTQ+. Let’s get started.
Getting old — and then some
Aging impacts members of the LGBTQ+ community in the same ways it impacts their straight counterparts. But for a variety of complex reasons, there are some issues that plague this population in greater numbers.
Tina and Jackie were born in the same year and went to the same college. But one is straight and the other is gay. And that changed everything.
Getting old isn't easy. But it can be particularly challenging for those who identify as LGBTQ+, and the reasons are complex — and interconnected.
It’s hard to save for retirement if you’re barely making ends meet — or straight up poor. This 2013 study breaks down poverty levels for LGB adults.
Older adults who identify as LGBTQ+ are often treated as a whole. But there are unique differences that impact each group differently as they age.
Back in the day
We tend to look back at the past with nostalgia: “It was a better, simpler time.” For the LGBTQ+ community, however, it was a time of profound discrimination, which set the stage for a lifetime of struggle — and resilience.
Just a few decades ago, being gay or transgender was considered a mental illness. For some older LGBTQ+ adults, that discrimination has had lasting impact — in a variety of ways.
Experts in the film call it an epidemic: Older LGBTQ+ adults so afraid of discrimination by caregivers or bullying by other seniors that many simply go back into the closet.
Imani Woody, PhD, is 65 years old, African-American and a lesbian who says aging is very different for those in the LGBTQ+ community who are also people of color.
The upshot of experiencing a lifetime of discrimination is that it can also produce a deep well of resilience. And while some have turned adversity into opportunity, others veer toward activism.
All in the family
Families matter, no matter where you sit on the spectrum of sexual identity. As we age, families matter even more. For older LGBTQ+ populations, “family” can mean a lot of things and serve as a source of strength — or sadness.
"Families of choice" can be a vital source of support for older LGBTQ+ adults. But they also pose unique challenges when it comes to navigating legalities and care later in the life.
Home sweet home
The loss of independence that can come with age leaves older LGBTQ+ adults with the difficult task of finding a place to call home — one where they can feel comfortable living life out of the closet.
This rabbi didn't think older LGBTQ+ adults should live in fear of coming out to health care workers. Now she's teaching long-term care residents and staff members to co-exist.
This report looks at the lives of older LGBT adults living in long-term care facilities to understand the issues they face, from fear of being out to outright violence
This is the story of what happened when Marsha Wetzel moved into a senior living facility after her partner of 30 years died: "I don't feel safe in my own home."
Some cities are standing at the cutting edge when it comes to creating facilities designed to serve older LGBTQ+ adults — like this one, in Chicago.
A resident in a senior housing facility built with LGBTQ+ adults foremost in mind recounts what happened when he moved in — and realized not everyone knew they were moving to an LGBTQ-friendly space.
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Citations & Sources
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