PGN Special Edition Coverage

Many of us prefer not to think about getting old, instead trying to preserve our youth and fight the natural aging process at every step of the way. But the fact is that all of us are aging, and if we are fortunate enough to live long lives, we will some day need to receive services from the network of aging-services professionals and health-care providers who care for older adults.


For most of us, aging can present numerous challenges, including the ability to maintain good physical and emotional health. But for the nation’s LGBT older adults, growing older may also mean facing a different set of challenges, such as discrimination in health-care services and having to go back into the closet to remain safe.


If someone suggested you check out a senior center, what would you say? One response I typically hear is: “I don’t want to hang out with a bunch of old people.” In this case, I will try to convince you of the numerous social and health benefits of attending a center. However, if you are an older LGBT person, your response might be: “I don’t believe I will be treated respectfully.”

Much needs to be done to ensure older LGBT adults can age with dignity. Many older LGBT adults face health problems or live with chronic health conditions at a time when they are least equipped to endure discrimination and social stigma. Health-care and human-services providers need to be culturally competent to meet the needs of LGBT older adults and to create inclusive, welcoming services. Sexual-orientation and gender-identity (SOGI) data collection is one step providers can use to identify and meet the needs of LGBT consumers.

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