SAGE has been looking out for the needs of older LGBT adults since its founding in the 1980s. The organization’s latest report tackles the issue of health equity for elders of color, a growing population. The report explains that “available research shows that they often face heightened health disparities and are largely rendered invisible in public policy discussions on aging. Many LGBT elders of color enter retirement age without the supports necessary for healthy aging. A lifetime of discrimination has adversely affected LGBT elders of color, based on multiple aspects of their identities, including racial inequality, anti-LGBT discrimination, challenges based on immigration status, and more.”
SAGE has worked to promote change in the Older Americans Act (OAA), especially because this is where the funding comes from for a bulk of senior services and it is the most obvious place to start.
“The OAA serves as the country’s leading vehicle for delivering services to older people nationwide, providing more than $2 billion annually in nutrition and social services. Unfortunately, little OAA funding goes to programs that explicitly target LGBT older people. Since its enactment in 1965, the OAA has placed its emphasis on vulnerable elders who face challenges related to social isolation. Yet despite ample evidence of their heightened vulnerability and their need for unique aging supports, LGBT older people are absent from this landmark law. As the OAA comes up for reauthorization, and as millions of LGBT people enter retirement age, Congress has an opportunity to ensure that the OAA supports all elders, including LGBT older people and in particular, LGBT elders of color,” the report states.
The organization has come up with ten policy recommendations that would strengthen the support for these older Americans:
1. Include specific provisions for LGBT elders in the Older Americans Act (OAA), ensuring that vulnerable LGBT elders of color are able to age in good health and with broad community support
2. Ensure that community services and supports in the Older Americans Act (OAA) are offered in a culturally and linguistically competent manner, better reaching LGBT elders of color
3. Increase federal funding for organizations and programmatic interventions targeting LGBT elders of color
4. Ensure that implementation of the Affordable Care Act engages LGBT elders of color as advocates, so that new health reforms effectively reach communities of color and LGBT communities that are dealing with aging challenges
5. Strengthen Social Security and increase access for LGBT elders and elders of color who experience diminished economic security in their retirement years. A stronger, more inclusive Social Security will enhance the lives of millions of LGBT older people of color.
6. Improve data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity to better identify and address health disparities among LGBT elders of color
7. Decrease elder abuse among more vulnerable and socially isolated elders by strengthening outreach and community supports to LGBT elders of color
8. Increase federal funding for safe and affordable senior housing and housing supports, while expanding the development of culturally and linguistically competent senior housing communities
9. Strengthen the federal response to HIV and aging, which includes building public awareness about the issue, equipping aging and health care providers with the skills to effectively serve older adults with HIV, and specifically addressing the impact of the epidemic on LGBT elders of color
10. Eliminate discriminatory exclusions of medically necessary transition-related care from federally funded health programs impacting LGBT older people of color
The report details how each of these changes can make a difference, and backs up the suggestions with data and personal examples. To read more go to http://sageusa.org/resources/publications.cfm?ID=203.