Chicago LGBTQ older adults across Illinois are struggling to get the healthcare, financial security and caregiving support they desperately need, according to a new report from AARP Illinois and SAGE released today.
The disparities, outlined in a first-of-its-kind report commissioned to help LGBTQ older adults to be seen and to be counted, demonstrate the devastating impact that decades of discrimination has had on LGBTQ older adults.
"As we enter LGBTQ History Month, this groundbreaking research is a sobering reminder of how events of the past still play a role in the way LGBTQ adults 50+ live today. Because of decades of discrimination, LGBTQ older adults fall behind their non- LGBTQ counterparts when it comes to having health care they need, retirement savings, and caregiving support as they age," said Mary Anderson, AARP Illinois Director of Outreach and Advocacy for Northern Illinois.
In response to the report, AARP Illinois, SAGE and Illinois Department on Aging Director Paula Basta pledged to use the data to further the work LGBTQ groups have been doing in the halls of our legislature for years.
"While the findings in this report are all too familiar to SAGE and the LGBTQ elders we serve, we're grateful to have the support of the resilient Illinoisans who are advocating for policy changes that will best address these disparities," said SAGE CEO Michael Adams. "Through our work with AARP Illinois, we call on state lawmakers to use their influence to ensure older LGBTQ people have access to the vital supports and services they deserve as they age."
"The Illinois Department on Aging is committed to ensuring LGBTQ older adults receive the services and supports they need to age well with dignity and respect," said Illinois Department on Aging Director Paula Basta. "This report provides a roadmap for how we can address common challenges facing the aging LGBTQ population, and I look forward to working with AARP of Illinois, SAGE, and our LGBTQ community partners to implement its recommendations." Among the key findings in "Disrupt Disparities: Challenges and Solutions for 50+ LGBTQ Illinoisans:"
- Nearly one-third of LGBTQ older people live at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.
- Poverty rates are even higher for LGBTQ older people of color, those aged 80 and older, bisexual older people, and transgender older people.
- Much of this poverty is because of discriminatory systems. For example, 83 percent of LGBTQ older adults rely mostly on Social Security for their retirement funds yet most LGBTQ older adults do not qualify for Social Security survivor benefits, their partner's retirement or pension benefits, or their partner's assets.
- LGBTQ older people experience mental and physical health disparities due to the lack of competent, inclusive health care, lifelong experiences of discrimination, and social isolation.
- LGBTQ older adults in Illinois report health care coverage and access to physical health services and care as their top priorities.
- Many older LGBTQ adults provide care to friends who are their "chosen family." Because of decades of discrimination in our legal and social structures, LGBTQ older adults do not have traditional family to rely upon for care.
- That's why LGBTQ older adults are twice as likely to be single and live alone, and 3 out of 4 LGBTQ older adults are concerned about having enough support from family and friends as we age.
For a complete copy of the report, visit: www.disruptdisparitiesIL.com .
The groundbreaking data the first time all available research on disparities was collected for such purposes was compiled by researchers at SAGE from May September of 2021 from studies in Chicago, Illinois, and across the country.
At Tuesday's press conference, Director Basta, AARP Illinois and SAGE representatives called on legislative leaders to read the report and recognize the need for inclusive services and supports.
By building on the work of the Illinois Department on Aging, the groups contended that there can and should be mandatory training for state-funded service providers on how to be inclusive of LGBTQ older adults.
Finally, the groups called for equal access and inclusive services that affirmatively support LGBTQ adults, more data on the experiences of LGBTQ older adults and a comprehensive strategy to support LGBTQ older adults in Illinois.
"It's never been more clear that LGBTQ older adults in Illinois need our help in order to overcome the negative impact discrimination has had on their health, wealth and ability to care for their aging loved ones," Anderson said. "Let's use the momentum of LGBTQ Pride and interest in LGBTQ History month to help older LGBTQ adults live the lives they deserve."
The Disrupt Disparities LGBTQ report is the latest in AARP Illinois' multi-year effort to create systemic policy changes on behalf of, and with, older adults falling behind in Illinois. In April, AARP Illinois worked with Chicago Urban League, The Resurrection Project and Asian Americans Advancing Justice to release a report on disparities experienced by older adults of color across the state.
That report, and its legislative policy recommendations, led to the creation of important new laws designed to close gaps for African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino and Asian American/Pacific Island older adults 50+ in the areas of health, wealth and Internet access.
AARP is the nation's largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With 1.7 million members in Illinois, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment.
SAGE is the world's largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) older people. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBTQ+ older people and their caregivers. SAGE also advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBTQ+ elders, provides education and technical assistance for aging providers and LGBTQ+ community organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBTQ+ Aging, and cultural competency training through SAGECare. With staff located across the country, SAGE also coordinates SAGENet, a growing network of affiliates in the United States. Learn more at sageusa.org