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Meeting the needs of our LGBT seniors

Commentary: EpiCenter

LGBT baby boomers, who will begin retiring in 2011, were 24 years old during the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, and are part of the estimated 1.5 million senior LGBT Americans many have called the first “out and proud” generation. Yet, too often they have been excluded from the social science research regarding aging and their unique issues and needs have not been adequately addressed by agencies and housing providers that serve seniors.

In the next five days, The San Diego LGBT Community Center will release a local needs assessment report regarding San Diego area LGBT seniors, with a focus on housing and housing-related services. The surveys, analysis and report were the research of Dr. Jim Zians and produced in part with the Ad Hoc Working Group on Housing for LGBT Seniors, a group of LGBT community members who have been working for several years in collaboration with The Center and a variety of other community organizations to better understand the needs of local seniors and, ultimately, begin to address them.

The report largely confirms most of the national and local findings that have preceded it. Among the characteristics and challenges outlined by San Diego seniors are four priority concerns:

1. Concerns regarding the lack of family, community and social support available to LGBT seniors

2. Concerns regarding the lack of access to culturally competent health care, mental health care and social services support available to LGBT seniors

3. Financial concerns

4. The lack of safe, LGBT-affirmative affordable housing options

According to the survey, LGBT seniors are more likely than their non-LGBT counterparts to live alone. They also are significantly less likely to have children or siblings they can count on for support as they age. This is particularly troubling, given that the vast majority of care and assistance for aging Americans is typically provided by family. In addition, more than half of the respondents expressed high levels of concern about their health and health care, and many were not comfortable being “out” to their health care provider.

The survey shows 23 percent of LGBT seniors had incomes of less than $20,000 annually. According to the Elder Economic Security Standard Index, San Diego seniors who have an income of $22,824 annually ($1,902 per month) live in poverty. Additionally, 49 percent reported having less than $5,000 in savings for retirement. LGBT seniors in San Diego also reported facing financial challenges that are exacerbated by discriminatory policies at all levels, such as inequities in the Social Security coverage due to a lack of marriage equality for LGBT couples.

In terms of housing-related concerns, LGBT senior San Diegans shared a desire with their non-LGBT senior counterparts to remain in their home as they age (79 percent). When asked, 90 percent of respondents indicated they would prefer LGBT-affirmative housing and 94 percent said they would prefer to live among other LGBT community members as they retire and/or age, with 79 percent reporting they feel safer living among LGBT community members.

The report and surveys are important tools to educate our community about the needs and concerns of our aging LGBT San Diegans; but now that we have a clearer idea of what our seniors need, what is most important is finding ways to begin to meet those needs. The full report contains a list of recommendations spanning from national advocacy initiatives to smaller steps that many of our local organizations can begin work on immediately. There is much to be done and we need to get started!

The executive summary and full report will be available online at TheCenterSD.org.



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Posted by on May 5, 2011. Filed under EpiCenter. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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