U.S. agency: Older LGBTs a population of 'greatest social need'

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The U.S. Administration on Aging on July 10 announced new guidance empowering federally funded aging-care providers to consider lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults as a population of “greatest social need.”

The announcement paves the way for increased services that can significantly improve their health and well being, according to a statement from the Human Rights Campaign and Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE). The two groups urged the administration to provide the instruction.

“SAGE applauds this critically important step … to recognize that LGBT older people have acute needs and to ensure that services are available to meet those needs,” said Michael Adams, executive director of SAGE. “We look forward to working with the Administration on Aging to continue to improve the availability of appropriate services to LGBT elders across the country.”

HRC president Chad Griffin said, “This step brings much-needed attention to the unique needs of LGBT older adults, and the urgent actions we must all take to preserve their dignity. AoA’s actions today are a crucial step toward ensuring that this generation has equal access to the services and resources that they deserve.”

The instruction or guidance clarifies that the current definition of “greatest social need” in the Older Americans Act – the country’s leading vehicle for funding and delivering services to older people nationwide – allows communities to identify populations in their service area that experience isolation for cultural, social or geographic reasons.

The guidance provides specific examples of these populations, including increased need based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

LGBT older adults, according to SAGE, are at an increased risk for social isolation, experience poor health and health access and face higher poverty rates than other seniors. Despite the increased need, the population is less likely to seek federal assistance and healthcare due to actual and perceived discrimination.

Designating LGBT older adults as a population of “greatest social need” will encourage agencies to give priority to funding, outreach, needs and data for the community.

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