On Wednesday, November 8, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) alongside Senators Michael Bennett (D-CO), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Edward Markey (D-MA) and Al Franken (D-MN) introduced new legislation, entitled the LGBT Elder Americans Act, which seeks to expand services for LGBT seniors. The legislation builds upon the Older Americans Act by designating LGBT seniors as a vulnerable population as well as establishing the National Resource on LGBT Aging.
“We should guarantee all of our seniors access to the care that truly meets their needs and so I am proud to advance this legislation that will improve services and support for LGBT older adults,” said Senator Baldwin, in her statement on the legislation. “Too many LGBT older adults carry the harmful physical and emotional health effects of having lived through a lifetime of discrimination. It is past time we do something about it and strengthen the Older Americans Act to better support our LGBT seniors.”
“Our laws and research are not current in addressing the unique needs of the aging generation of baby boomers,” said Senator Bennet, addressing issues of one of the largest generations. “This legislation would provide LGBT seniors, who often face significant barriers to accessing health care, with targeted services and resources. By helping aging service organizations assist older LGBT adults and permanently establishing a National Resource Center, we will better meet the needs of the LGBT community.”
“LGBT seniors can face unique challenges and have few LGBT-specific resources to help them cope,” said Senator Merkley.“It’s time to end that hurdle to services and pass the LGBT Elder Americans Act.”
“Our LGBT seniors helped build this country, and we owe them dignity and access to services that address their specific needs,” said Senator Markey. “I am proud to co-sponsor the LGBT Elders Act to ensure all of our seniors receive the care they have earned and deserve.”
“We need to do all we can to support seniors in Minnesota and across the nation so that they can age safely and access vital programs that enrich their lives,” said Senator Franken. “That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues in this effort to make sure we address the needs of our LGBT seniors by improving the quality of specialized services, and establishing the nation’s first resource center devoted to older LGBT Americans.”
As the number of Americans age 65 and older surges over the next few decades, the number of LGBT seniors is estimated to double to three million by 2030, according Senator Baldwin’s press release on her website. The available research shows that LGBT seniors have fewer sources of support compared to heterosexual individuals and, therefore, face higher poverty rates.
The LGBT Elder Americans Act, first introduced in 2015, would permanently establish the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, which would be the country’s first and only technical assistance resource center aimed at improving the quality of services and support for older LGBT adults. The Center’s resources would include educating mainstream aging service organizations about the needs of LGBT seniors and providing educational resources to LGBT seniors, their families, and their caregivers. The Center would also work with LGBT organizations to ensure that the special needs of older adults are taken into account.