New Report: No Golden Years at the End of the Rainbow

A new report by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force shows that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) elders suffer health disparities and economic insecurities that are compounded over the course of a lifetime with devastating effects.

“We’ve always known how disparities and discrimination over the course of a lifetime can have devastating effects on thousands of our LGBT elders, and now we are building the research base to bring these realities to light,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.  

GoldenYearsCoverThe report “No Golden Years at the End of the Rainbow: How a Lifetime of Discrimination Compounds Economic and Health Disparities for LGBT Older Adults,” written by Erin Fitzgerald, MPA, shows that elder LGBT people face situational and systemic barriers that are continually exacerbated as they age.  

These include employment discrimination, lack of access to social safety nets, increased healthcare costs, and disparate treatment when accessing health care caused by systemic prejudice, heterosexism and gender stereotyping, among others. As a result, LGBT people are less likely to be covered by employer-based health insurance.

“In order to effectively address all the needs of the LGBT community, Congress must pass the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, which provides additional protections in law to vulnerable elders who face multiple barriers that aggravate economic insecurity, social isolation and various health challenges related to aging. Additionally, Congress must pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression at the federal level,” urged Barbara Satin, assistant faith work director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Key findings:

  • LGBT baby boomers now reaching retirement age are the first “out” generation of older adults in our history. By 2030 the number of LGBT older adults will likely double.
  • Sixty-eight percent (68%) of LGBT people reported experiencing employment discrimination. Employment discrimination is not simply a one-time injustice; LGBT people experience discrimination throughout the course of their lives.
  • Over 55 percent of LGB people and 70 percent of transgender people report being mistreated in a medical setting. Eight percent (8%) of LGB people have been outright refused service, and twice as many trans people (19%) have been refused treatment.
  • In the United States approximately 28% of people living with HIV/AIDS are over 50 years old. This number is projected to grow to 50% by 2017. Each year there are more than 1,000 new diagnoses of HIV infection in men who have sex with men age 55 and older.
  • Pervasive lack of cultural competency in the healthcare system contributes to significant health care avoidance reported by LGB (29%) and transgender (48%) individuals compared to their non-LGBT counterparts (17%).
  • Fifty-seven percent (57%) of transgender people reported experiencing family rejection, which is correlated with significantly worse health outcomes than their peers who experienced family acceptance. As mainstream opinions about the LGBT community change, we see that LGBT young people’s health is positively affected by family acceptance.

The Task Force has been at the forefront of LGBT aging work for many years. Our earlier reports, “Outing Age” in 2000 and then “Outing Age 2010: Public Policy Affecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Elders,” created and published in collaboration with Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders (SAGE) broke new ground in bringing these issues to light.  

For this report, we thank the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) for their support of this publication. To download the report, go here.