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Solo “Gay-ging”: Who Will Take Care of Me When I am Older?

| June 13, 2019
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With an estimated 3 million LGBT adults over age 50 (with the number expected to grow to around 7 million by 2030) living in the US, isolation and discrimination is on the rise for many single, aging LGBT folk. The emphasis on youth within the gay male culture fosters denial about aging concerns and often leaves older community members alone, marginalized, and suffering in silence.

LGBT older people, as well as those living with HIV, face increased rates of social isolation, higher rates of poverty, and a lack of access to culturally competent services and supports compared to their straight, cisgender, and HIV negative counterparts. It is a sad truth that thousands of our LGBT elders are dying earlier than their straight counterparts in isolation and fear.

As a financial advisor specializing in retirement planning for many aging gay and lesbian clients, I have been witness to the intolerance, fear of religious objection, bullying, and abuse within housing, caregiving, and healthcare settings many of them have experienced—sometimes even from members of their own family. 

As the country recognizes Pride month and the 50th commemoration of the Stonewall riots this June, now is the perfect opportunity for the entire LGBT community to advocate for the needs of the “Stonewall Generation”—those who have fought hard for decades to gain the rights and visibility we may now take for granted. Having to hide their identities and go back into the closet to survive their senior years is just not acceptable and is something the entire LGBT community and its allies needs to advocate to change.

Aging Within the Shadow of Discrimination

Although LGBT identities, relationships, and family configurations are expanding and evolving within the younger generations, there are several demographic factors that still define LGBT senior identities, including:

  • They are twice as likely to be single and live alone than their straight counterparts, with gay men being less connected compared to lesbians within every relationship type (LGBT friends to straight friends, from partners to neighbors)
  • Almost three quarters do not have access to LGBT-specific senior services*
  • They are four times less likely to have children, with over three-quarters concerned about having adequate family and/or social supports to rely on as they age.*
  • They are far more likely to have faced discrimination and social stigma, with LGBT persons of color more likely to carry reasons for concern regarding discrimination and bad health outcomes compared to their white counterparts.
  • Gender expansive community members strongly experience and fear discrimination, much more so than lesbian, gay, or bisexual community members
  • Two of ten LGBT retirees in the US live on less than $20,000 per year and are more likely, therefore, to face poverty, homelessness, and to have poor health.
  • LGBT discrimination in the healthcare field is nothing new nor surprising; with a calculated 60.5% of the general LGBT community being concerned that healthcare providers are not sensitive to LGBT patient needs and 55.75% of the LGBT community being concerned about discrimination or prejudice affecting the quality of their healthcare.*

All of these factors can be compounded by intersections of sex, race, ethnicity, and disability.

Boomers Are Leading the Aging Revolution

Despite these overwhelming statistics, there is strong movement in a more positive direction.

With around 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 everyday for over the next 15 years**, the growing “solo aging” trend is fueling transformation in how single seniors access financial, housing, and healthcare decision support. Organizations and institutions are examining every aspect of how they interact with and provide services to aging customers. In conjunction with increased LGBT cultural competency training within many senior service and healthcare systems, the transformations in care will benefit LGBT seniors as well as the larger straight population.

Single Seniors Don’t Have To Go It Alone

There are numerous ways for seniors to expand their community connections as well as enhance their mental and financial well-being:

  • Consider “right”-sizing to a senior housing community. 91% of older LGBT folk are at least somewhat interested in LGBT-welcoming housing development for older adults. Several initiatives are underway right here in South Florida, including Lambda Living’s 15-unit housing program in North Miami that is LGBT-focused and intergenerational for seniors and young adults and the Residences at Equality Park in Wilton Manors. Another option is the “Golden Girls Housing” trend, where single seniors connect to share a house as roommates. Treece Financial is happy to help you explore options. Just give us a call at 3-5-751-8855 to discuss it.

  • Connect with your local LGBT Community Center for programming that may include drop-ins, peer-support or discussion groups, information and referral services, designated spaces for older adults, exercise and fitness programs, movie-going, museum and theater groups, dances, computer training and Internet access, speakers bureaus, community service projects, vacation cruises and day trips, hot meals, art classes and writing workshops, newsletters, and guest speakers. There are several well-established and active centers within South Florida to check out, including The Pride Center at Equality Park, SunServe, Fort Lauderdale Prime Gentlemen, Lambda Living Program for LGBT Seniors (Jewish Community Services), Unity Coalition, and Compass Community Center.

  • Encourage community dialogue to counter ageism and build understanding between younger and older LGBT people. SAGE Table is an easy-to-implement activity that doesn’t require too much effort!

  • Revisit your financial plan is key to ensure you have the most options to make the best decisions. As seniors age, insurance requirements, healthcare needs, living situations, and legal documents change. It is a good idea to meet with your financial advisor to make sure all is up-to-date and meets your current as well as future needs.

Specifically, Treece Financial Group has developed a high level of experience and capability in dealing with elder care issues, including establishing caregiving services, long-term care, working with experts in identifying assisted living facilities, assisting with the physical move to a facility, retro-fitting housing to stay at home, planning for death, and dealing with dementia and other health-related issues.

We would be happy to meet with you to help you be ready for whatever lies ahead in life’s next chapter. Simply email or call us at 304-751-8855 to schedule a complimentary consultation.

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Learn more about how Treece Financial serves the financial planning needs of LGBTQ individuals in South Florida and download copies of LGBTQ-focused caregiving and planning guides at treecefinancial.com/lgbtq

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Maintaining Dignity: Understanding and Responding to the Challenges Facing Older LGBT Americans, An AARP survey of LGBT adults age 45-plus. March 2018.

** www.census.gov

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