LGBT aging issues to take center stage at congressional briefing on Capitol Hill
The injustice facing many LGBT elders was brought home just this week by the painful story of Clay Greene and Harold Scull, an elderly gay couple separated by officials in Sonoma County, Calif., who also sold their possessions despite the measures the couple took to protect their relationship. More details here.
"The needs of the oldest members of our community have long been invisible to many of us and ignored by most institutions in our society," said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which recently released Outing Age 2010: Public Policy Issues Affecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Elders. "LGBT elders remain a highly vulnerable and largely invisible aging population. We know that invisibility leads to greater social isolation, which can lead to increased vulnerability in many areas. We also know that discrimination across the lifespan leaves LGBT people economically and socially vulnerable as they age. There are many challenges but we also have concrete recommendations on how aging advocates, policy makers and social service agencies can meet them."
Scheduled speakers at Thursday's congressional briefing are Laurie Young, aging analyst and interim director of Public Policy and Government Affairs of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, who will discuss findings and recommendations in Outing Age 2010; Hope Barrett, director of Elder Affairs of the Howard Brown Health Clinic; Harper Jean Tobin, policy counsel of the National Center for Transgender Equality; Joyce Pierson, elder rights advocate and former staff of the Elder Rights Project of the National Center for Lesbian Rights; and John Johnson, SAGE's federal director of governmental affairs.
"Most Americans already face challenges as they age, but 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 older Americans," said Johnson. "We must educate our elected officials and the public about the facts: that LGBT elders are more likely to live in poverty, face social and community isolation, and lack appropriate health care and long-term care."
SAGE recently released a groundbreaking report representing one of the first major collaborations between LGBT advocacy organizations and mainstream aging organizations to comprehensively examine the issues facing LGBT older adults.
Improving the Lives of LGBT Older Adults was co-authored by SAGE and the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), in partnership with the American Society on Aging, the National Senior Citizens Law Center, and the Center for American Progress, with a foreword from the AARP. The report was formally released at the American Society on Aging's national conference, held last month in Chicago, Ill.
"SAGE's report outlines the issues and offers solutions, providing a much-needed roadmap for creating a society where all older adults are treated with dignity and respect," said Johnson.
The LGBT elder population is growing, with a large wave of openly LGBT baby boomers poised to seek aging-related services over the next 25 years. Despite that, there is virtually no government-sponsored research on aging that includes sexual orientation or gender identity variables. This lack of data results in policy and practices that ignore the unique realities and needs of older LGBT people. This is beginning to shift, as the congressional briefing and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' announcement last fall of plans to establish the first national LGBT elder resource center indicates.
"This change can't come too soon," said Carey.
To learn more about SAGE, visit us on the web at http://sageusa.org
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 advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT older people. SAGE also offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older adults and their caregivers, 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 affiliates across the country. Learn more at sageusa.org.