As LGBTQ+ people, we share many of the same concerns with aging as anyone else. Many of our needs are different, though. We are two to three times more likely to live alone and four times more likely not to have children.
This raises questions: Who will care for us when we need it? How and where can we find housing, medical and support services that respect us, or where we at least will not experience discrimination? Many of us have experienced situations with organizations or care providers that welcome us, but don’t exactly understand the experience of being LGBTQ+. Some organizations have recognized this, and are focusing attention on the needs of older LGBTQ+ adults. We will highlight three of those: AARP, the Alzheimer’s Association, and the LGBTQ Caregiver Center.
By 2030, there will be an estimated 7 million LGBTQ+ people. By 2050, the number of Americans age 65+ is expected to nearly double. A new AARP survey finds LGBTQ Americans aged 45 and over share concerns about how they are treated. A vast majority, 85 percent, of older LGBTQ individuals are concerned about discrimination based on sexual orientation. Almost all of us, 91 percent in fact, are at least somewhat interested in LGBTQ+ welcoming senior centers and housing. More than 76 percent are concerned about having inadequate family or social support to rely on.
AARP has made supporting our community a priority. In 2022, they released “Dignity 2022: The Experience of LGBTQ Older Adults,” findings from a survey of more than 2,000 LGBTQ people (https://www.aarp.org/research/topics/life/info-2022/lgbtq-community-dignity-2022.html). Their efforts in North Carolina include a focus on sharing the stories of LGBTQ+ people, providing education about resources available to the aging LGBTQ population, and creating social networks for these individuals to share experiences, knowledge, and ways to advocate on their behalf at the local, state, and federal levels (https://www.aarp.org/home-family/voices/lgbtq/ ). AARP and the Alzheimer’s Association are national partners.
Cognitive impairment is a concern for all aging adults, with impacts increasing as we get older. One in nine adults age 65+ report some level of subjective cognitive decline. By age 90, it impacts about 35 percent of people. Early research has shown a higher prevalence for LGBTQ+ people. In addition, 30 percent to 50 percent of HIV-positive people experience HIV Associated Neurocognitive Disorders (HAND).
The Alzheimer’s Association, which provides support for people with all forms of cognitive impairment, including dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, has made the LGBTQ+ community an area of focus. Top leadership at the association has been hired to drive the efforts to support our community, as well as other disproportionately impacted communities.
The Association’s North Carolina chapters have been active. The “Thrive with Pride” series has included workshops for people experiencing cognitive decline and for those who provide support. These included how to identify cognitive decline (vs. normal aging), finding resources, support for caregivers, information on HIV and HAND, and financial and legal matters, including how to form an Aging Plan. This fall, look for the Thrive with Pride Brain and Body Health Fair in Charlotte (date TBD). If your group is interested in any of these presentations, please email: email@example.com.
There are an estimated 3 million LGBTQ Caregivers across the Unites States. Caregivers in the LGBTQ community share much in common with other caregivers but we also have unique needs, challenges and experiences.
In the general population, the overwhelming majority of caregivers are often a spouse or a biological family member who is providing care for a parent, spouse or other relative. In the LGBTQ community, it’s not uncommon to rely upon a network of social support through “families of choice” versus biological families of origin where there may be strained relationships or no relationships at all. Chosen family may include life partners, close friends, or other loved ones that are not biologically related nor legally recognized but serve as a significant source of physical, social, emotional, and financial support so it’s not surprising that many LGBTQ people rely on each other and their social networks for caregiving support.
LGBTQ Caregiver Center is a developing virtual resource hub that aims to raise awareness of the unique needs, challenges and experiences of LGBTQ Caregivers and those who care for LGBTQ individuals. For more information, visit lgbtqcaregivers.org.