07.14.15

Baldwin, Bennet Introduce Bill to Expand Services for LGBT Seniors

Bill Permanently Establishes National Resource Center on LGBT Aging

WASHINGTON, D.C.  U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) today introduced the LGBT Elder Americans Act to improve services available for older lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) adults. Specifically, the bill would build upon the Older Americans Act to include LGBT seniors as a vulnerable population and permanently establish the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) is also an original cosponsor.

“I have long supported efforts to improve services and supports for LGBT older adults through Older Americans Act, and am proud to join Senator Bennet in introducing this bill. Too many LGBT older adults enter the aging system with the harmful physical and emotional health effects of having lived through a lifetime of discrimination,” said Senator Baldwin. “It is past time that we recognize these profound challenges and guarantee that they have access to the high-quality services they need and deserve to live and age in dignity. I believe it is critical that our OAA programs are prepared to meet the challenges of future generations, and to support and protect all of our most vulnerable elders, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“As baby boomers continue to age, it’s important that we understand the unique needs of this diverse generation,” Bennet said. “For LGBT seniors, questions about health care and financial issues can be particularly difficult without a trustworthy advocate to help guide them through these challenging decisions. And now, with full marriage equality thankfully the law of the land, many older LGBT couples have additional planning decisions to make. This bill will help aging service organizations assist older LGBT adults and their caregivers. Above all, it will provide LGBT seniors and their families the peace of mind that their best interests are being considered.”

“On the heels of the White House Conference on Aging and breakthrough announcements from the Obama Administration to combat discrimination against LGBT elders, there could not be a better moment to reintroduce the LGBT Elder Americans Act so that Congress can do its part.  We are immensely grateful to Senator Bennet for his leadership,” said Michael Adams, Executive Director, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE).

As the number of Americans age 65 and older surges over the next few decades, the number of LGBT seniors is estimated to double to 3 million by 2030. The available research shows that LGBT seniors have fewer sources of support compared to heterosexual individuals and therefore face higher poverty rates and experience poor health and health access.

The bill would permanently establish the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, which would be the country’s first and only technical assistance resource center aimed at improving the quality of services and supports offered to older LGBT adults. The Center’s resources will include educating mainstream aging service organizations about the needs of LGBT seniors and providing educational resources to LGBT seniors, their families, and their caregivers. The Center will also work with LGBT organizations to ensure that the special needs of older adults are taken into account.

In addition, the bill will prioritize research and development grants for organizations working to improve LGBT health, long-term care needs, and access to culturally responsive services.