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Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Aging By The American Psychological Association, Two Paths Integrative Wellness LLC, Farmington Hills, MI

A Growing Population

More than 39 million people in the U.S. are age 65 years or older including 2.4 million people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). As the baby boomer generation ages, the older adult population will increase from 12.8 percent to an estimated 19 percent in 2030. Psychological service providers and care givers for older adults need to be sensitive to the histories and concerns of LGBT people and to be open-minded, affirming and supportive towards LGBT older adults to ensure accessible, competent, quality care. Caregivers for LGBT people may themselves face unique challenges including accessing information and isolation.

Unique Disparities

As a group, LGBT older adults experience unique economic and health disparities. LGBT older adults may disproportionately be affected by poverty and physical and mental health conditions due to a lifetime of unique stressors associated with being a minority, and may be more vulnerable to neglect and mistreatment in aging care facilities. They may face dual discrimination due to their age and their sexual orientation or gender identity. Generational differences and lack of legal protection may cause older LGBT adults to be less open about their sexuality. Social isolation is also a concern because LGBT older adults are more likely to live alone, more likely to be single and less likely to have children than their heterosexual counterparts. All of these considerations can be compounded by intersections of sex, race, ethnicity and disability.

Psychologists, mental health facilities and aging services treating older adults are working with LGBT people, whether they have chosen to disclose or not, and providers should be cognizant of their presence and their unique needs should integrated into systems of care. Services intended for the older adult population must be assessed proactively and changes implemented as may be necessary to be welcoming for people who are both older and identify as LGBT.

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