There are an estimated 2.4 million LGBT adults over the age of fifty in the United States. In the course of their lifetime, they have seen monumental change. Any LGBTQ adult over the age of 65 was born at a time when same consensual same-sex activity was still illegal in all 50 states. However, far too many LGBTQ older adults are struggling in what should be their golden years.
LGBTQ older adults face high rates of economic insecurity, few options for LGBTQ specific housing, severe health and wellness issues, and a dearth of support services tailored to meet their unique needs:
- Economic Insecurity – Many LGBTQ older adults suffer economic insecurity due to the legacy of discrimination’s effect on lifetime income. Having earned less throughout their lifetime and having forfeited tax breaks afforded married heterosexual couples, LGBTQ older adults – whether in a relationship or single – have fewer savings to draw on. (See our poverty issue brief here.)
- Health & Wellness – LGBTQ older adults face a number of alarming health disparities. Among LGBTQ older adults, there is a higher prevalence of risk factors such as smoking, alcohol abuse, and unprotected sex. One report found that 30 percent of LGBTQ older adults experienced depression, while nearly 40 percent seriously considered suicide. These health disparities are exacerbated by discrimination and a lack of culturally competent healthcare. More than ten percent of LGBTQ older adults have been denied healthcare or received inferior care on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- HIV/AIDS – Half of all people living with HIV are over the age of 50, and the majority of those older adults with HIV identify as LGBTQ. People with HIV are living longer, and LGBTQ older adults are still contracting the virus. For the latter group, medical providers all too often fail to routinely test for HIV due to misconceptions about the sexual activity of LGBTQ older adults. Additionally, LGBTQ older adults all too often fail to seek out HIV tests and delay treatment when diagnosed, due to fear of discrimination.
- Housing – LGBTQ older adults are twice as likely as their straight counterparts to be single and living alone, often without any children. In these scenarios, they become reliant on “families of choice.” Lack of culturally competent senior housing for LGBTQ older adults has resulted in an unacceptable number of seniors returning to closet in their last few years just to get adequate housing.
For more information on the unique needs and challenges faced by LGBTQ older adults, we recommend these resources:
- The Williams Institute’s LGBT Aging: A Review of Research Findings, Needs, and Policy Implications
- The Re-Philanthropy/COF Blog post by our very own Lyle Matthew Kan, Unassisted Living: LGBTQ Seniors & Foundation Funding
In 2014, the top 10 funders supporting LGBTQ elders in the U.S. awarded nearly $2.4 million, nearly three-fourths of all funding for LGBTQ older adults that year. All but one of the top ten funders are private foundations. (The one exception is a corporate funder.) Six are LGBTQ-specific funders.
The Top 10 Funders Supporting LGBTQ Older Adults (2014)
|1) Ford Foundation (New York, NY)||$700,000|
|2) Alphawood Foundation (Chicago, IL)||$250,000|
|3) California Wellness Foundation (Woodland Hills, CA)||$245,000|
|4) Arcus Foundation (New York, NY)||$200,000|
|4) H. van Ameringen Foundation (New York, NY)||$200,000|
|6) M.A.C. AIDS Fund (New York, NY)||$195,000|
|7) Booth Ferris Foundation (New York, NY)||$150,000|
|8) Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund (San Francisco, CA)||$130,000|
|9) Calamus Foundation (New York, NY)||$125,000|
|10) Annenberg Foundation (Los Angeles, CA)||$100,000|
|10) Gill Foundation (Denver, CO)||$100,000|
In 2014, the top ten grant recipients of funding for LGBTQ older adults received more than $2.9 million, or 89 percent of all funding for LGBTQ older adults that year. Five of the top ten recipients were HIV/AIDS service providers. Six of the top ten were headquartered in New York City.
The Top 10 Grant Recipients of Funding for LGBTQ Older Adults (2014)
|1) SAGE (New York, NY)||$1,590,550|
|2) Freedom Center for Social Justice (Charlotte, NC)||$258,150|
|3) Center on Halsted (Chicago, IL)||$250,000|
|4) National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (Washington, DC)||$245,000|
|5) Openhouse (San Francisco, CA)||$113,300|
|6) Griot Circle (New York, NY)||$105,000|
|6) Queens Community House (New York, NY)||$105,000|
|8) Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing Corporation (New York, NY)||$100,250|
|9) Dimmock Lamarca (New York, NY)||$100,000|
|10) Los Angeles LGBT Center (Los Angeles, CA)||$42,000|
For funders seeking to support LGBTQ older adults, there are a number of community assets to build on:
- There is a strong national infrastructure provided by SAGE, which offers a range of programs addressing the needs of LGBT elders, as well as serving as a key voice for LGBTQ elders in national policy.
- A network of 27 SAGE affiliates in 20 states, grassroots groups of LGBTQ elders of color, and other organizations across the country are providing services and local programs for LGBTQ older adults.
- A small but growing set of LGBT-focused senior centers in cities such as Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, offer vital services as well as promising practices with the potential for replication in other cities.
- There is a growing array of curricula and models for increasing LGBTQ cultural competence and inclusiveness in all services and systems for aging populations.
Building on these assets, funders have several opportunities to improve the lived experience of LGBTQ older adults:
- Build the capacity of existing LGBTQ aging service providers.
- Support new programs that specifically address the unmet needs of LGBTQ older adults in non-LGBTQ-specific environments.
- Increase the cultural competency of non-LGBTQ specific service providers that cater to older adults.
- Invest in LGBTQ-specific housing for LGBTQ older adults.