Members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community have spent decades fighting for equality and for an end to prejudice. Just when they are finally starting to see tangible results in areas such as the right to marry, another concern surfaces. Three out of four adults age 45 and older who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender say they are concerned about having enough support from family and friends as they age. Many are also worried about how they will be treated in long-term care facilities and want specific LGBT services for older adults. If you are a member of the LGBT community or you have a loved one who is, you will find the results of a recent AARP survey important.
The national AARP survey, “Maintaining Dignity: Understanding and Responding to the Challenges Facing Older LGBT Americans,” asked members of the LGBT community a number of questions related to aging and how being a member of the LGBT community affects their outlook on growing older. Data was collected from October 27 to November 12, 2017, through an online survey of 1,762 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans age 45 and older. Among some of the more informative findings were the following:
- 67 percent of respondents said they would be very or somewhat concerned about neglect
- 62 percent are worried about abuse
- 61 percent have a fear of physical harassment
- 61 percent wondered whether they would be refused access to services or face limited access
- 52 percent thought they might not be able to be out or would be forced to hide or deny their identity.
Why Do Members of the LGBT Community Have These Concerns?
Naturally, researchers wanted to know the reason why LGBT members are worried about aging. They found that three factors significantly impacted how LGBT members viewed the future – relationships, communities, and health care.
Same-sex couples do not “partner” at the same rate by gender. Survey data shows gay men age 45-plus are far more likely to be single (57%) and live alone (46%) than lesbians, 39 percent of whom are single and 36 percent live alone. This puts them at greater risk of isolation and potentially influences the types of services they will need later in life. In addition, transgender or gender-expansive individuals are also less likely to be connected to sources of social support, also putting them at increased risk of isolation now and as they age.
Where they live is also a factor that impacts their thoughts on old age. The share of residents with access to LGBT community resources is significantly higher in bigger cities compared to smaller and more rural areas, but health and senior services still lag everywhere. Just 48 percent of big city residents surveyed and as few as 10 percent of rural and small town residents say they have access to LGBT senior services in their community. Survey respondents living in what they describe as very un-friendly communities were seven times more likely to report recent experiences with housing discrimination due to their LGBT identity (14% vs. 2% in LGBT-friendly communities).
When asked if they are worried about having to hide their LGBT identity in order to have access to suitable housing options as they age, 34 percent of all LGBT survey respondents reported being at least somewhat worried, as did half (54%) of transgender and gender-expansive participants. The survey found very high levels of interest in LGBT-welcoming older adult housing developments: 90 percent of respondents were extremely (35%), very (27%) or somewhat (28%) interested in that option.
Concerns within the LGBT community about long-term care are great, particularly for gender-expansive individuals. Majorities cite concerns about neglect, abuse, refused access to services, or harassment. The possibility of being forced to hide one’s identity as a condition of receiving care is a concern for just under half of lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents and for 70 percent of transgender and gender expansive respondents.
For black and Latino LGBT community members, they are also far more likely to be concerned about their race or ethnic identities, as well as gender identity, putting them at risk for poor quality of care. Rather than one type of discrimination out-ranking others, black and Latino members of the LGBT community carry additional reasons to feel vulnerable in the health care system. When it comes to health care providers, 87 percent of respondents have at least a good relationship with their health care provider. The survey found high demand for long-term care providers who actively welcome the LGBT community and demonstrate awareness and knowledge of the specific needs of LGBT adults as they age. More than eight in ten survey respondents say they would feel more comfortable with providers who are specifically trained in LGBT patient needs, use advertising to highlight LGBT-friendly services, have some staff members who are LGBT themselves, or display LGBT-welcoming signs or symbols in facilities and online.
Contact an LGBT Estate Planning Attorney
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about long-term care planning for members of the LGBT community, contact the experienced Missouri LGBT estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.