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LGBT Advocate Sees Hurdles Ahead

Unless policies change, older gays and lesbians will face unique challenges as they age.

4. Social Isolation

Despite creating families of choice and other support networks, many LGBT older people still experience high rates of social isolation. They are twice as likely to be single and to live alone, and three to four times as likely to be childless. They are also less likely to feel welcome in the places where many older people socialize, such as senior centers, volunteer centers and places of worship. Research and SAGE's experience show that the harmful effects of this include depression, delayed care-seeking, poor nutrition and premature mortality.

5. Access to Aging Services

LGBT older people often do not access aging services out of fear of harassment or hostility. Few aging services providers plan for, or reach out to, the LGBT community — and few are prepared to address insensitivity or discrimination aimed at LGBT elders by staff or other older people.

Fortunately, such attitudes are changing. A recent survey of aging services providers shows that a growing number of respondents would welcome LGBT elders, but lack the proper training. Resources such as the federally funded National Resource Center on LGBT Aging have been created to provide training and tools to aging providers, LGBT organizations and LGBT older people themselves, ensuring that our community increasingly will be able to age with the dignity and respect we all deserve.

Michael Adams is executive director of SAGE, the nation's largest and oldest organization working to improve life for LGBT older adults.

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