"Invisible and Overlooked": Gay Seniors in Newsweek

I missed this 9/18/08 Newsweek article, ‘Invisible And Overlooked’: A growing population of lesbian and gay senior citizens seeks recognition for their unique needs and challenges. It's a worthwhile short read. I've often been frustrated that, while my library does pretty well by GLBT teens--has a decent selection of books there--once a GLBT patron turns 18, we have near-zilch. Those who focus on service to seniors in public libraries should consider their GLBT seniors, too. Sexual orientation: it ain't just for kids.

Some excerpts from the article:

Gerontologists haven't traditionally viewed sexual orientation as relevant to their work—and, according to a study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, most national health surveys of elderly citizens fail to assess sexual orientation. But gay seniors confront unique challenges: they're twice as likely as straights to live alone, and 10 times less likely to have a caretaker should they fall ill...Many face discrimination in medical and social services, and on top of it all, they're less likely to have health insurance: one survey, by the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law, at UCLA, estimates that gay seniors are half as likely to have coverage as their straight counterparts...

...Over the next 25 years, persons in America who are 65 and older are expected to grow from about 12 to 20 percent of the total population, and various estimates indicate that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals will comprise 7 to 10 percent of that senior population...

...For those who can afford it, there are gay-specific retirement communities and free service centers dotted around the nation, mostly in urban areas. But most regular nursing homes give shared-room preference to their married clients, and only a few states require employers to give leave for employees caring for same-sex partners. Inside care centers, advocates tell stories of social workers using gloves to treat only their gay patients, or those patients being shuffled around from room to room to avoid harassment from other residents. In rare cases, social workers say that couples have gone to the extent of agreeing not to visit each other, for fear the staff will treat them differently. And many patients revert back into the closet to protect themselves...

...Financial and estate-planning matters can complicate things further. In most cases, gay survivors don't have rights to a partner's pension plans, and are taxed on 401(k)s and IRAs they might inherit. Same-sex couples must also pay federal estate taxes on jointly owned homes where married couples don't. Sometimes they even have to fight with blood relatives over how to dispose of a partner's remains. To approximate some of the protections of marriage, many gay couples have to set up extra legal frameworks, such as powers or attorney and joint tenancy agreements. "Senior citizens have enough of a challenge just figuring out all the paperwork for health insurance—but gays and lesbians have this added layer," says attorney David Buckel, the director of the Marriage Project at the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a civil rights group. "It can be overwhelming."

Sidenote: Heh heh. In the article, Michael Adams, executive director of SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders), is quoting as having said "not one emoticon of respect." Think he might actually have said "modicum"?

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