Prevalence

As the US population ages, it becomes more diverse.8,9 It is difficult to assess the size of the LGBT population, but there are estimates that 3.5% of adults in the United States are LGB, approximately 0.3% of whom are transgender.10-12 The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute approximates that there are 1 to 3 million LGBT Americans who are aged 65 years and older. As the number of older people in the United States increases and will continue to increase for the next decades, it is estimated that the number of LGB adults will surpass 6 million by 2030.9,13,14

Needs and Concerns of Older LGBTQ Adults

A survey of 2376 LGBTQ adults aged 45 to 75 years found that older LGBTQ adults have many concerns, some of which are unique to being both elderly and LGBTQ. For example, 51% of older LGBTQ individuals (those aged 45 to 75 years) are “very or extremely concerned about ‘having enough money to live on,’ as compared to 36% of non-LGBT people.”15 


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In addition, 32% of the older LGBT population is concerned about “being lonely and growing old alone,” relative to 19% of the non-LGBT population.15 Older LGBTQ adults are concerned about opportunities available to them if others know about their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

For example, 27% of them believe that if others know about their sexual orientation, work or volunteer positions will not be available to them.15 Thirty-three percent of transgender adults feel these positions will not be available to them if others know about their gender identity.15 

When seeking out housing, 13% of LGBTQ adults and 25% of transgender older adults say they have been discriminated against because of their sexual orientations or gender identities.15

In another study that surveyed 2560 LGBTQ adults aged 50 to 95 years across the United States, responses showed that 68% had faced verbal harassment at some point in their lives, and 43% were threatened with violence. 

In terms of mental health, 53% report feeling lonely, and 31% have depression. Of the gay and bisexual male participants in the survey, 14% were living with HIV.16 This study identified the 5 services most needed by the LGBTQ community as social events, transportation, support groups, legal services, and senior housing. In another study, 54% of LGBT adults said that their gender identity makes aging more difficult.17,18

Healthcare Disparities of LGBTQ Elders vs Non-LGBTQ Elders

The definition of healthcare disparities, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, is differences in health that are a consequence of systemic economic, social, and environmental drawbacks. Many older LGBTQ individuals are concerned about healthcare access as they age. 

Forty percent of LGBQ adults in their 60s and 70s, as well as 43% of single, older LGBTQ individuals aged 45 to 75 years, state that their healthcare providers are not aware of their sexual orientations. Alarmingly, 65% of transgender adults aged 45 to 75 years believe “that there will be limited access to healthcare as they grow older.”15 

This article originally appeared on Psychiatry Advisor