Editor’s note: This is part of a series on retiring gay. This article covers efforts to get federal funding for older LGBT adults. Other articles can be found at www.sfgn.com/RetiringGay.
That’s the number of LGBT people in the U.S. age 55 and older, according to SAGE (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders), the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT older adults.
Additional findings from a report recently released from SAGE include:
- 50 percent of single LGBT older people believe they will have to work well beyond retirement age as compared to 27 percent of single, non-LGBT people.
- 42 percent of LGBT people fear they will outlive the money they have saved for retirement as compared to 25 percent of non-LGBT older people.
- 40 percent of LGBT older people, ages 60-75, say their health-care providers don't know their sexual orientations.
- 40 percent of LGBT people say their support networks have become smaller over time as compared to 27 percent of non-LGBT people.
- 25 percent of transgender older adults report discrimination when seeking housing.
Properly addressing these concerns and others, as well as ensuring this population has its needs met in other ways on a long-term and permanent basis, are the goals of advocacy organizations and lawmakers in Washington D.C. who represent congressional districts in South Florida.
The LGBT Aging Issues Task Force, a congressional effort part of the LGBT Equality Caucus, is working alongside SAGE, the Human Rights Commission and National LGBTQ Task Force to initiate change.
Congressman Ted Deutch, who represents South Florida’s 21st District (this includes portions of Palm Beach and Broward counties), is one of the founding members of this effort. He said it’s important to shed light on the needs and priorities of LGBT Americans of all ages and explore policy solutions.
“We wanted to make more members of Congress mindful of the needs and concerns of LGBT seniors and create a dialogue around issues where there is currently none,” Deutch said, adding that the needs of the LGBT community are often ignored in a “conservative” Congress. He is also vice chair of the House LGBT Equality Caucus.
“In the coming years, our aging population will present us with new challenges with respect to care-giving, health-care costs and the economic impact of so many people leaving the workforce. The sheer size of America’s aging population means that millions of LGBT Americans are also growing older. Many of them have faced enormous discrimination over the course of their lifetimes, leaving them more vulnerable to abuse, isolation and poverty in old age,” Deutch said.
Congresswoman Lois Frankel, who represents South Florida’s 22nd District (that runs from Riviera Beach down through Fort Lauderdale), is also taking a leadership role within the task force to bring issues faced by the older LGBT population to the forefront. She said there two major tasks at hand right now.
The first is getting a classification for this population under The Older Americans Act (OAA), originally enacted in 1965, supports a range of home and community-based services, such as meals-on-wheels and other nutrition programs, in-home services, transportation, legal services, elder abuse prevention and caregivers support, according to the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.
These programs help seniors stay as independent as possible in their homes and communities. In addition, OAA services help seniors avoid hospitalization and nursing home care, and, as a result, save federal and state funds that otherwise would be spent on such care.
“If you are classified, and minorities are classified, they get additional supportive services like meals-on-wheels, mental health services and employment opportunities,” Frankel said.
The other is to continue lobbying the Administration for Community Living (ACL), an organization created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to maximize the independence, well-being, and health of older adults, people with disabilities across the lifespan, and their families and caregivers.
ACL brings together the efforts and achievements of the Administration on Aging, the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and the HHS Office on Disability to serve as the federal agency responsible for increasing access to community support, while focusing attention and resources.
Deutch stressed that more data, like the recent report from SAGE, on the LGBT older adult population is essential to moving these efforts forward.
“We can’t tackle these problems without better data, so the first action of the task force has been to work with the Administration on Aging in the hopes that they will mandate better tracking of LGBT seniors along with their great work tracking other, at-risk minority populations,” he said.
Deutch said that he makes a point to connect with LGBT seniors in South Florida to get a first-hand account of the issues being faced by this population.
“I recently visited the Fort Lauderdale Pride Center, where I met with dozens of LGBT retirees and had a terrific time discussing the issues that mattered to them,” he said.
Frankel added, “This initiative is not a be-all and end-all. There are a lot of aspects, such as financial issues, emotional issues. We will start to look for different opportunities where we can make some progress… I'm for the cause.”
Resources for LGBT Seniors
SAGE of South Florida
PO Box 70516
Oakland Park, FL 33307-0516
National SAGE organization
Additional locations in New York, Washington, D.C. and Chicago
Miami-Dade County Equal Opportunity Board
111 NW 1st Street, Suite 2150
Miami, FL 33128-1965
Palm Beach County Office of Equal Opportunity
215 North Olive Avenue, Suite 130
West Palm Beach, FL 33401
Florida Commission on Human Relations
4075 Esplanade Way, Room 110
Tallahassee, FL 32399