, Gloucester, MA


May 17, 2013

Age may push gays, lesbians back into closet

Discrimination is a funny thing. Sometimes, it’s not real. However, if someone perceives that they are being individually discriminated against, or are among a class of individuals who occasionally or frequently feel discriminated against, it can affect their actions and the actions of those around them, often in a very negative way.

According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender elders are among the most vulnerable groups that may resist services designed to help them, because of real or perceived discrimination. NGLTF says that federal programs designed to assist elderly Americans can be ineffective or even irrelevant for LGBT elders, and that several studies document widespread homophobia among those entrusted with the care of America’s seniors. LGBT seniors who do accept services often go back into the closet because of this, which further enhances fear and isolates them further.

Especially among aged LGBT elders, there is likelier to be a less robust family support system. Many were estranged from their families of origin, and most did not have children. Thus, an aging partner may be their only support, or they may have no support.

Faith-based support systems are often unavailable, although the Unitarian Universalist Church has a long tradition of welcoming LGBT congregant.

A recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that nearly 44 percent of evangelical youth between the ages of 18 and 29 favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry, and 49 percent of young Republicans did, as did 52 percent of all Catholics (thus, just knowing someone’s religious beliefs is not necessarily an indicator of how they feel about LGBT issues). So, while there is evidence of a more liberal and progressive attitude among youth, older people may still hold beliefs dictated by their upbringing or by their interpretation of scripture. According to the Administration on Aging, “Caregivers of older people are themselves growing older. Of those caring for someone aged 65-plus, the average age is 63 years with one-third of these caregivers in fair to poor health.” Thus, among LGBT elders with a more limited circle of support, it’s easy to see how some of those elders could benefit greatly from the services that SeniorCare, and other aging and disability agencies, provide.

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