LGBT retirement issues

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Affectionate male Valentine couple, circa 1870

Many retirement issues for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and intersex people are unique from their heterosexual counterparts and these populations often have to take extra steps addressing their employment, health, legal and housing concerns to ensure their needs are met.

In 1969, the Stonewall Riots marked the start of the modern gay rights movement and increasingly LGBTI people have become more visible and accepted into mainstream cultures.[1] LGBTI elders and retirees are still considered a newer phenomenon creating challenges and opportunities as a range of aging issues are becoming more understood as those who live open lives redefine commonly held beliefs and as retirees newly come out of the closet.

LGBTI individuals are less likely to have strong family support systems in place to have relatives to care for them during aging. They are twice as likely to enter old age living as a single person; and two and a half times more likely to live alone. Because institutionalized homophobia as well as cultural discrimination and harassment still exist, they are less likely to access health care, housing, or social services or when they do, find the experience stressful or demeaning.[2]

Joel Ginsberg, executive director of the Gay Lesbian Medical Association, asserts "only by pursuing both strategies, encouraging institutional change and encouraging...and empowering individuals to ask for what they want will we end up with quality care for LGBT people."[2]

Across the United States retirement communities catering to LGBT clientele have begun to appear.[3] However, LGBT people living in nursing homes or assisted living centers "increasingly report that they have been disrespected, shunned or mistreated in ways that range from hurtful to deadly, even leading some to commit suicide."[4]

In response, LGBT Aging Centers have opened in several major metropolitan areas with the goal of training long-term care providers about LGBT-specific issues. Legislative solutions are available as well: "California is the only state with a law saying the gay elderly have special needs, like other members of minority groups. A new law encourages training for employees and contractors who work with the elderly and permits state financing of projects like gay senior centers."[4] Twenty states prohibit discrimination in housing and public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation.[4]

The General Accounting Office (as the GAO was then called) identified 1,049 federal statutory provisions in which marriage rights are contingent on marital status or in which marital status is a factor (married being defined as a male-female couple only).[5] An update was published in 2004 including new statutory provisions involving marital status as well as statutory provisions repealed or amended yielding a total of 1,138 provisions in which marital status is a factor in determining benefits, rights, and privileges.[6] For LGBTI retirees the implications transcend almost every aspect of retirement planning if they are in a same-sex marriage or long-term romantic relationship that is not legally recognized as a marriage.

Aging in society as a member of the LGBT community[edit]

Older LGBT group on a float at Pride London 2011 in Trafalgar Square.

There are many problems facing elderly LGBT individuals.[7] They tend to have less money, worse health and they are much more likely to be alone in comparison to heterosexual people. There are several reasons for this but the main one is discrimination in the form of shunning from family, friends or coworkers.

Gay men and lesbians often make less money or lose their jobs due to their sexual orientation. Often they are passed over for promotions that go to straight people.

Due to the issues at work gays and lesbians get smaller paychecks, which makes it harder to plan for retirement. They also are not able to get the same level of quality healthcare as those in higher positions. This also means smaller pensions to live on later in life. This can affect partners as well since the laws in most states do not support gay marriage or common law living between same sex couples. These partners will not have access to the same benefits when their loved one dies either.

Often the stigma alone of being gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual keeps the elderly out of retirement homes and those that do get in are often shunned and treated with disrespect.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pew Global Attitudes Project (June 2003). Views of a Changing World (.PDF). Washington, D.C.: The Pew Research Center For The People & The Press. OCLC 52547041. Retrieved 2007-07-11. 
  2. ^ a b Cassell, Heather (18 October 2007, Vol. 37 / No. 42). "LGBT Health Care Movement Gains Momentum". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved 2007-10-20.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ The New York Times > Real Estate > National Perspectives: Gay Retirement Communities Are Growing in Popularity
  4. ^ a b c Gross, Jane (October 9, 2007). "Aging and Gay, and Facing Prejudice in Twilight". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  5. ^ General Accounting Office's 1997 report PDF format
  6. ^ 2004 updated report of the GAO PDF format
  7. ^ Gay Aging Problems

External links[edit]