According to recent studies, nearly four million seniors living in the United States identify themselves as being gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transsexual. These studies have also shown that LGBTQ seniors are more likely to have financial problems as well as suffer from chronic diseases such as obesity and alcoholism. Part of the reason is almost certainly due to the increased discrimination that these people experience as they get older.
LGBTQ seniors have a tendency to be more socially withdrawn than their straight counterparts. Because of this, they don't respond well to managed care and nursing home settings. Furthermore, institutional discrimination exists in many of these facilities which further stigmatize LGBTQ seniors.
Seniors in good enough shape to live by themselves are often ostracized by elements within the LGBTQ community. Many of them have lost friends and partners over the years to AIDS and other diseases, and find themselves alone with no on to turn to for help. As a result, seniors often turn to drugs and alcohol instead, which ultimately leads to addiction.
Even LGBTQ seniors in relationships are not afforded the same rights as married straight couples. As a result, some have paid thousands of dollars in excess taxation over the years, due to the fact that the IRS doesn't allow committed or married homosexuals to file joint income tax returns. This further adds to the economic woes, increasing the likelihood that these seniors will find themselves living in poverty.
When a LGBTQ senior loses a partner, there are a number of discriminatory laws which keep the survivor from accessing the partner's assets. For example, estate and gift tax exemptions are not provided under current law to these couples. So while a straight senior will be able to inherit assets tax free from a deceased partner's estate, the gay senior incurs a tax liability in the process. To add further insult, social security and veterans survivor benefits are not available. The result is that LGBTQ seniors who have lived their lives in relative comfort can suddenly find themselves in severe financial trouble following the death of a loved one.
Fortunately, the LGBTQ community has set up outreach programs in larger cities to provide services and care to the elderly. While there are substantial problems which have to be addressed, the realization that these seniors are vulnerable and face unique hardships is a step in the right direction. Advocates are also fighting for increased awareness of this problem on the government level, including lobbying for expanded benefits under Federal law. As a result, the Department of Health and Human Resources has recently established a resource center for LGBT seniors. The goal of advocates is simple: to ensure that all elderly people can live with the respect and dignity that they deserve, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.