Health Issues

LGBT people have systematically encountered obstacles to good health. As a result, LGBT elders face specific and magnified health vulnerabilities:

  • Heightened risk of drug & alcohol addiction;
  • Lesbians face heightened risk of cancer and obesity;
  • Gay and bisexual men and male-to-female transgender people are at increased risk from HIV/AIDS with people 50 and older accounting for approximately 17% of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses.
  • Invisibility within both gay and heterosexual communities is one of the most challenging aspects of a bisexual identity.
  • Forty-one percent of LGBT adults age 50 and older have a disability including HIV/AIDS, asthma, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.
  • One-third of LGBT older adults report depression.
  • Discrimination and refusal of care has been a major challenge for transgender people, especially veterans attempting to access care through the VA system.
  • Due to unequal access and lack of partner recognition, LGBT seniors have lower rates of health insurance coverage resulting in delays in seeking health care.

Care & Social Issues

  • LGBT elders report an almost universal fear and anxiety of care provision by strangers in assisted living and nursing care settings.
  • Living in isolation, and fearful of the discrimination they could encounter in mainstream aging settings, many marginalized elders are at a higher risk for elder abuse, neglect, and various forms of exploitation.
  • For LGBT elders, social isolation compounds physical and mental health concerns and can lead to mental and physical ailments such as depression, delayed care-seeking, poor nutrition, and poverty
  • LGBT seniors are twice as likely to live alone, half as likely to have close relatives to call for help and four times less likely to have children, the primary caregivers of seniors, compared to heterosexual seniors.

Financial Issues

  • LGBT older adults are especially reliant on programs like Social Security. They have faced a lifetime of employment discrimination that has disrupted their lives and affected their opportunities to earn a living and save for retirement. LGBT elders are therefore poorer and less financially secure than American elders as a whole.
  • Same-sex partners do not have access to federal family leave benefits, equivalent Medicaid spend-downs, Social Security benefits, bereavement leave, or automatic inheritance of jointly owned real estate and personal property.
  • Thirty percent of LGBT seniors do not have a will and thirty-six percent do not have a durable power of attorney for healthcare.