Rage Against the Dying of the Light: Aging from Diverse Perspectives
SAGE was proud to be presenting on a panel with our partners in the Diverse Elders Coalition at Creating Change, taking place last week in Chicago. The panel entitled, “Rage Against the Dying of the Light: Aging from Diverse Perspectives,” discussed the specific needs that diverse elders have as they age and whether current programs, services, supports, and laws allow us to meet the needs of these growing and intersecting populations. It delved into a variety of “isms” and phobias, from racism and ageism to transphobia and biphobia. And it explored what we can do at the federal, state, and local levels to address the myriad challenges and opportunities diverse aging presents.
As SAGE’s point person on federal affairs, I talked about what the federal government can do to address the unique challenges faced by LGBT older adults. As a population that faces pronounced social isolation, higher poverty rates than their non-LGBT counterparts, and at the same time, diminished access to culturally competent services, supports, and healthcare, our federal government can and should do more. It has the tools to address the chasm that exists between the greater need and the lower likelihood of this population accessing the critical services and supports they need to remain independent.
What can be done? As Congress works to reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA), it can include language proposed by Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Patrick Murphy that would target LGBT older adults for services and supports and hold the aging network accountable for reaching them – all by designating LGBT older adults a group of “Greatest Social Need.” Read more about our recommendations on updating the OAA via our latest policy report: Updating the Older Americans Act: Why Do LGBT Older Adults Need Support?
In the meantime, the Obama Administration can help as well. The Administration on Aging can require states to evaluate whether they are meeting the needs of LGBT older adults in their communities – and if they find they are not – require the states to report back on how they will meet the needs of LGBT older adults in their communities.
Many thanks to Ben de Guzman, Diverse Elders Coalition; Maria Glover-Wallace, Affinity Community Services; Vega Subramaniam, Vega Mala Consulting for sharing their stories and viewpoints. This esteemed panel discussed both the challenges facing LGBT older adults and their counterparts and what we all can do – from Congress and the Obama Administration to activists in communities across the country – to ensure that all older adults get the services and supports they need to age with dignity.