We Need Protections & Support for LGBT Older Adults

SHELBY PATTERSON | Between the Lines | Pride Source | December 10, 2015

Michigan is not prepared to work with LGBT older adults. Federal and state civil rights laws do not include the terms sexual orientation and gender identity, and therefore do not protect these individuals. The Offices of Services to the Aging has proposed inclusion for LGBT older adults in the state plan. However, this is not mandated. Due to the lack of a concrete policy, aging providers are not required to go through cultural competency training. The LGBT older adult population is growing and this community has unique needs concerning later life.

In the U.S. there are an estimated 39.6 million older adults age 65-plus, representing 12.9 percent of the current population. This number is expected to increase to 72.1 million older persons, totaling 19 percent of the population by 2030. Between 1.75 and 4 million Americans ages 60 and older identify as LGBT. By 2030, it is estimated that there will be as many as 7 million LGBT older adults living in the U.S.

LGBT older adults are often invisible, and people are often unaware that this population even exists. Aging service providers often assume that all older adults are heterosexual. The option for selecting LGBT on an intake form is typically non-existent. That is unfortunate, because this is the population that will be utilizing older adult services more often than their heterosexual counterparts.

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