New York Legislature Advances Bill Supporting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Older Adults
SAGE applauds Senator Duane and Assembly Member Kellner for sponsoring this important legislation, a critical step to improve supports for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older New Yorkers.
The bill, which now awaits New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's signature to officially become law, also calls for NYSOFA to provide technical assistance to the organizations that serve LGBT older adults, and to report annually on those services to the governor and state legislature. The bill was sponsored by New York State Senator Thomas K. Duane and Assembly Member Micah Z. Kellner.
"This legislation will help ensure that traditionally underserved communities have access to appropriate health services. LGBT seniors are currently five times less likely to seek health and social services because of fear of discrimination," said Senator Duane. "By focusing on the needs of marginalized New Yorkers, the Office of the Aging can play a crucial role in reducing health disparities across the state."
"I would like to thank the New York State Legislature, and especially Senator Duane and Assembly Member Kellner, for the leadership they have shown in sponsoring and advocating for this essential legislation, a critically important first step to ensuring culturally competent aging services for LGBT older New Yorkers," said Michael Adams, Executive Director of SAGE (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders), a national, New York-based nonprofit that provides direct services, training and technical assistance, and advocates to improve the lives of LGBT elders.
"In SAGE's experience, LGBT older people don't access aging services out of fear of harassment, and few aging services providers are prepared to address insensitivity or discrimination aimed at LGBT elders," added Adams. "This bill will begin addressing this concern by working directly with the aging network throughout our state."
In addition to the challenges of aging faced by all New Yorkers, the available research has shown that LGBT older adults have the added burden of a lifetime of stigma; relationships that generally lack legal recognition; and unequal treatment under laws, programs and services designed to support and protect elders. According to the report Improving the Lives of LGBT Older Adults, released in 2010 by SAGE and the Movement Advancement Project, LGBT elders are also more likely to live in poverty, face social and community isolation, and lack appropriate health care and long-term care.
Therefore, LGBT older adults often have an increased need for supportive services and programs. Further, with the numbers of LGBT elders projected to double over the next two decades, aging services providers in New York and nationally will be called on more and more to deliver culturally appropriate services that meet the unique needs of LGBT older people.
"Sadly, many LGBT seniors lack a support network that most of us take for granted," said Assembly Member Kellner. "LGBT seniors should be able to feel comfortable in their communities and have the services they need and deserve. This legislation will go a long way in correcting these inequalities."
A recent national 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 first-ever federally-funded National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, launched in October 2010 and led by SAGE in partnership with 10 aging and LGBT organizations across the country, are providing training and tools that help aging providers meet the needs of LGBT elders.
These types of services will undoubtedly increase throughout New York in the aftermath of this legislation. SAGE is equipped to support the expansion of these services through its national headquarters in New York City, and five affiliates operating across New York State. We applaud the legislature for passing this legislation, and we look forward to seeing its enactment and utilization.
Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) is the country's largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older adults and their caregivers, advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT older people, provides education and technical assistance for aging providers and LGBT organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, and cultural competence training through SAGECare. With staff in New York City, Washington, DC and Chicago, SAGE coordinates a growing network of 30 SAGE affiliates in 20 states and the District of Columbia. Learn more at sageusa.org and lgbtagingcenter.org.