Op-ed: Retirement Tops List of Concerns for LGBTs

LGBT seniors need a place to be themselves — when the time comes.

BY Joseph Sarto

October 30 2013 3:40 AM ET

The LGBT senior population is set to double over the next 20 years, and roughly 3 million of those people will begin making arrangements to enjoy their golden years. As retirement becomes a reality for many aging LGBT people, research shows it is not without its concerns.

A recent study by Prudential Financial found that while LGBT people are generally confident about their financial futures, they are concerned about funding retirement, just like most other people. Employment discrimination, tax treatment, health care coverage, and state laws pertaining to Social Security and survivor benefits make proper planning more difficult. To ensure there is enough money to last the length of retirement, many singles and same-sex couples have to be more creative.

Other LGBT retirement concerns include social isolation and access to health care and aging-related services. With stigma still lingering within graying generations, many LGBT seniors feel unwelcome and susceptible to mistreatment in conventional places where seniors gather. LGBT elders are also more likely to live alone and have very few family members to lean on for support. For these reasons isolation is extremely common, and many often become secretive about their sexuality as they age.

It is also widely believed that the health care system and aging-service providers are hostile or judgmental toward LGBT people. Few reach out to LGBT seniors and lack the training or information to address their unique health issues. For fear of discrimination, LGBT seniors more often delay or avoid medical attention and choose to conceal important information that leads to conditions being underdiagnosed. Many also lack health insurance.

There are many unique challenges that complicate LGBT retirement, but the growing number of LGBT seniors demand quality options when it comes to elder care.

I have been working to launch the first LGBT continuing care retirement community,  in Santa Rosa, Calif., and it's on track to open this year. Just north of San Francisco, Fountaingrove Lodge will provide LGBT seniors not only a place to enjoy a meaningful retirement in a community of friend, but also access to the medical services they may need now or in the future — all in the privacy of their homes.

The goal is to offer independent living, and when the time comes, assisted living and memory care services. After decades of fighting for us, either in the street, the locker room, the classroom, or the boardroom, our seniors deserve the best care available to them.


JOSEPH SARTO is the executive director of Fountaingrove Lodge in Santa Rosa, Calif.

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