There are unique challenges in achieving those successes for LGBTQ+ older adults. If someone feels unwanted in any given place, they are in a state of stress. And older LGBTQ+ people are especially vulnerable. LGBTQ+ elders grew up in a world where their identity was socially unacceptable, diagnosed as pathology, and criminalized. It’s a long history of being socially isolated, tortured, and involuntarily hospitalized. It’s a lifetime of systemic discrimination that has resulted in poorer health outcomes.
- Source: The National Senior Citizens Law Center et al., “LGBT Older Adults in Long-Term Care Facilities: Stories from the Field,” accessed May 11, 2017, http://www.lgbtagingcenter.org/resources/pdfs/NSCLC_LGBT_report.pdf.
Distrust leads to higher degrees of alienation. Imagine hiding in nursing homes because they are scared to death of the consequences of homophobia, essentially going back in the closet because they are afraid to be mistreated or abused. A study by the Human Rights Campaign concluded that LGBTQ+ elders are less likely to seek long-term care services. 60% are concerned about discrimination, and 40% are not comfortable being out to their provider. And so there is a reliance on a “chosen family”.
Currently, LGBTQ+ elders are twice as likely to be single and three to four times more likely to be without children than their heterosexual counterparts. A “chosen family” is important because they may not have a legal spouse or a legal child. The idea of who is responsible and who they can go to becomes a real issue and should be addressed.