[New York, NY] Today Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced the LGBT Elder Americans Act of 2012, which would increase federal supports to millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older people through the Older Americans Act (OAA), the country's largest vehicle for funding and delivering services to older people in the US. The OAA is currently up for reauthorization and includes no mention of LGBT older adults.
"As 'baby boomers' continue to age, it is critical that we understand the unique needs of this diverse generation," Bennet said. "For our LGBT seniors, questions about health care and financial issues can be especially difficult if they cannot find a trustworthy advocate to help guide them through these difficult life decisions. This bill will provide aging services organizations with more tools to assist older LGBT adults and their caregivers. Most of all, the bill will provide LGBT seniors and their families the peace of mind that their best interests are being considered at this stage in their lives."
Among the bill's proposals for the OAA is an amendment that would specify LGBT older adults as a population in "greatest social need," as well as an amendment that would permanently establish the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, which provides LGBT cultural competence training to aging providers around the country. Other amendments include a proposal to increase funding for research and programs aimed at LGBT elders; a proposal to require long-term care ombudsmen to collect data relating to discrimination against LGBT older adults; and a proposal to enhance reporting requirements from area and state agencies on aging on their services to LGBT older adults.
"SAGE applauds Sen. Michael Bennet for his visionary leadership and for introducing these important amendments to the Older Americans Act. LGBT older adults face profound challenges that require unique services and supports, and this bill is a major step forward for elders in every part of the country," said Michael Adams, executive director of Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE).
If enacted, the bill's amendments would do the following:
—Include LGBT older adults as a vulnerable population with greatest economic and social need as a result of a lifetime of discrimination;
—Permanently establish the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, the country's first and only technical assistance resource center aimed at improving the quality of services and supports offered to LGBT older adults;
—Improve data collection and analysis on the effectiveness of the state units on aging and the AAAs in targeting services to LGBT older adults;
—Require long-term care ombudsmen to collect and analyze data relating to discrimination against LGBT older adults in long-term care settings; and
—Prioritize research and development grants for organizations working to improve LGBT health, long-term care needs, and access to culturally responsive services.
While the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act is expected to take place in 2013, aging leaders have been steadily voicing their support over the last two years for making the OAA more responsive to LGBT older adults.
In July, the Administration on Aging issued guidance that empowers AoA-funded aging providers to consider LGBT older adults as a population of "greatest social need"paving the way for increased services that can significantly improve their health and well-being.
And in April 2010, the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, a 65+-member association comprising the country's leading aging organizations, released its official "Consensus Recommendations for the 2011 Older Americans Act Reauthorization," and included eight recommendations specific to LGBT older adults.
Learn more about LGBT older adults and the Older Americans Act at www.sageusa.org/oaa
Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) is the country's largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older adults and their caregivers, advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT older people, and provides training for aging providers and LGBT organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging. With offices in New York City, Washington, DC and Chicago, SAGE coordinates a growing network of 23 local SAGE affiliates across 16 states and the District of Columbia. Learn more at sageusa.org and lgbtagingcenter.org .