LGBTQ Older People
*This section was created as a collaboration between GLAAD and SAGE
According to national advocacy and services organization SAGE, when referring in general to older people the preferred phrasing is older people, not “elderly” or “senior citizens.” This might change depending on the person you are writing about. As always, ask people what language they use to describe themselves.
While the lack of national data makes it impossible to know the precise size of the older LGBTQ adult population, it is estimated that by 2030, there will be 7 million LGBTQ people in the U.S. who are 50 and older. LGBTQ older people face unique challenges when compared with their non-LGBTQ peers. A 2010 MAP/SAGE study found that older LGBTQ people are twice as likely to be single and live alone, and four times less likely to have children, making social isolation a significant challenge for this community. In addition, LGBTQ older people are more likely to face poverty homelessness, and physical and mental health challenges.
When reporting on LGBTQ older people, topics to explore include:
LGBTQ People as caregivers
LGBTQ older people are more likely than their non-LGBTQ peers to live alone and have smaller support networks. Given that fact, LGBTQ older people become caregivers at higher rates than their non-LGBTQ peers. LGBTQ people are 9% of all caregivers, according to an AARP report. In addition, LGBTQ people are more likely to care in isolation, leading to stress and burnout.
Access to critical care and services
Fear of, and experience with, discrimination and a lack of cultural competency in healthcare, housing, and other vital services, make LGBTQ people less likely to seek out critical care and services as they age. In 2018, AARP found that 34% of LGBTQ older people — and 54% of transgender older people — reported being worried about having to hide their identity to access housing for older people. And it is not just discrimination as LGBTQ people age: LGBTQ older people have dealt with a lifetime of discrimination in healthcare, employment, housing, and more, leading to increased stress over the years. In addition, LGBTQ older people have experienced a lifetime of disparities in earnings, leading to financial instability and risk among LGBTQ older people when compared to non-LGBTQ peers.
Older LGBTQ people and HIV
Nearly 50% of people living with HIV in the United States are over the age of 50. While limited, the available research on older adults with HIV suggests that HIV rates are increasing among adults ages 50 and older — and that the AIDS epidemic has disproportionately affected older LGBTQ people and marginalized sub-groups within LGBTQ older adult populations. According to the National Resource Center on LGBTQ Aging, studies have identified older men who have sex with men, transgender elders (especially older transgender people of color), and older lesbians as populations adversely affected by HIV/AIDS.
Celebrating a lifetime of survival
LGBTQ older people have been making change, big and small, for decades. From being among the first to come out in cities across the country and the world to standing up for their rights at the Stonewall Uprising to caring for friends and loved ones impacted by the AIDS epidemic, and more, today’s LGBTQ elders have interesting and important stories to share about perseverance and resilience.
See Facts on LGBT Aging from SAGE and the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging for more.