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Special Needs of LGBT Baby Boomers

by Published On: Mar 25, 2011

As baby boomers approach old age, a growing percentage of them will fall into the category commonly known as “LGBT,” which stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”

There are currently an estimated 2.4 million gay, lesbian or bisexual Americans over the age of 55. Of this number, about 416,000 were part of a same-sex couple in 2006, up from 222,000 in 2000. [1] Of all same-sex couples, 11.8 % include one person aged 65 years old or older while 9.4 % include two seniors. Almost a quarter (23.4%) of these same-sex couples includes a partner 55 years old or older while 18.6 % are comprised of two people over 55. [2] 

LGBT baby boomers have the same fears about aging as their heterosexual counterparts. Just like other boomers, they are struggling to finance their retirement and have similar desires for end-of-life care at home. [3] But make no mistake about it. LGBT boomers will approach retirement differently than the general population. That’s because they face unique challenges and barriers in a variety of areas.

Financial Insecurity 

Despite the stereotype of gay and lesbian affluence, LGBT older adults tend to be poorer and less financially secure than American elders as a whole. [4] Nearly half (45%) of lesbians and gay men aged 50-59 earn less than $39,000 a year while 20 % earn less than $26,000. Two-thirds (62%) of those aged 60 and older earn less than $39,000. [5] As a result of these financial challenges, almost half of the LGBT boomers expect to work until at least age 70. Less than a quarter of these boomers say they have saved what they need to live in retirement. [3] 

Caregiving Issues 

Sixty percent of LGBT boomers say they fear being unable to care for themselves as they age. These fears may be well founded, given the fact that LGBT boomers are more likely than the general population to be single and live alone. [3] Close friends, rather than family members, are likely to perform most of the caregiving tasks required by these older Americans. Nearly two-thirds of LGBT boomers report having a “family of choice” on which they rely for social connections, care and support. Indeed, gay, bisexual and transgender men provide 41 hours of care weekly, compared with 26-29 hours provided by other population groups. [3]

Legal Protections 

Despite their importance to LGBT households, families of choice often do not enjoy the same legal protections and resources afforded to the family members of heterosexuals. [4] For example, despite paying into the Social Security system throughout their lives, LGBT partners are denied the Social Security survivor benefits to which married couples are entitled. Medicaid’s spousal impoverishment protections do not apply to same-sex couples and families of choice. And, unlike their heterosexual peers, surviving LGBT partners are heavily taxed on any retirement plan they inherit from their partners. [2] On the health front, visitation policies and medical decision-making laws often exclude families of choice. [4]

Long Term Services and Supports  

Social isolation is high among LGBT older adults, who are more likely than other elders to feel unwelcome in health care settings, senior centers, volunteer organizations or places of worship. [4] To counteract that isolation, one-third of aging network organizations have offered or funded some type of LGBT aging training to staff, and four out of five agencies indicated in a 2010 survey that they were willing to offer that training. However, very few agencies provide LGBT-specific services or outreach. [6] 

Read More About It 

[1] Aging and Gay, and Facing Prejudice in Twilight. 2007. The New York Times, Oct. 9.  

  

 [2] The Cost of Marriage Inequality to Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Seniors: A Human Rights Campaign Foundation Report. 2004. Urban Institute. 

[3] Still Out, Still Aging: TheMetLife Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Baby Boomers. 2010. MetLife Mature Market Institute.

  

[4] Improving the Lives of LGBT Older Adults. 2010. LGBT Movement Advancement Project and Services and SAGE.  

[5] Groundbreaking Study on LGBT Aging: Need for Housing, Services and Support. 2003.  Openhouse. 

  

[6] Ready to Serve? The Aging Network and LGB and T Older Adults. 2010. SAGE. 

 



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