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For the estimated 3 million LGBTQ Americans age 50 and older, the past five decades have brought triumphs that were once unimaginable, from the birth of the pride movement to marriage equality.
But now the so-called Stonewall generation — those who came of age around the 1969 uprising that galvanized the modern gay rights movement — faces a new set of challenges when it comes to aging with dignity.
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"Older LGBTQ people are two times more likely to be single and three to four times less likely to have kids,” says Lynn Faria, the chief officer for external affairs at SAGE, the country's first and largest advocacy group for older LGBTQ adults.
The organization estimates that the number of LGBTQ adults age 50 and older will reach 7 million by 2030. But a lack of social and familial support means that they are more likely to experience social isolation or struggle to find a caregiver, which can have profound consequences on physical and mental health.
According to AARP's “2018 Maintaining Dignity Survey,” 76 percent of LGBTQ adults age 45 and over worry about having adequate family and social support systems to fall back on as they grow older — and the majority worry about abuse, neglect and harassment in long-term care settings like assisted living or nursing home care.
Faria calls this situation “double jeopardy,” because without strong family and social support networks, older LGBTQ adults are more reliant on outside care providers as they age, but that same system of care is not equipped to meet their needs.
A 2016 report from the organization Justice in Aging, for example, notes that 78 percent of LGBTQ residents in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and long-term care facilities responded “No” or “Not sure” when asked if they felt comfortable being open about their sexual orientation or gender identity to facility staff.