Older LGBT individuals confront serious, additional barriers to successful aging that their non-LGBT counterparts do not. Unfortunately, the needs of LGBT elders frequently go unacknowledged because older LGBT individuals are largely invisible to the rest of society, despite their significant numbers. Improving data collection on LGBT older adults is critical to increasing their visibility and to addressing their unique needs. For example, better data collection would translate into information for policymakers to effectively allocate funding for aging programs and services and for providers to better understand and serve their older LGBT clients. To that end, policymakers at both the federal and state levels should include language in aging laws and policies requiring data collection about this vulnerable constituency. Additionally, service providers should incorporate questions about sexual orientation and gender identity into their daily practice, by integrating them into the demographics section of all forms and surveys, for instance.
INCLUSION IN AGING PLANNING
Though aging services and programs are available to all individuals ages 60 or older, LGBT older adults are less likely than their cohorts to engage them due to past and present discrimination and to a lack of outreach specific to them. At the same time, they are more likely to be socially isolated, have poor health and healthcare access, live in poverty, and lack traditional sources of support and caregiving, such as children, sibling, or other relatives. Specifically including LGBT elders in state and aging agency plans on aging would serve to ameliorate these disparities and help to ensure that LGBT older adults are receiving services for which they are eligible. It would also facilitate the identification and service of needs specific to LGBT older adults, improve data collection, and increase technical assistance and training to service providers.