Report: Unique Challenges Face Older Gay Residents

Aging lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents in Massachusetts face unique challenges, according to a report released Thursday by a special legislative commission.

The report offers a number of recommendations to address the needs of LGBT seniors, including the development of inclusive elder housing communities and protections against discrimination for transgender people in nursing homes and other health facilities.

The 20-member commission was created in 2013 by lawmakers and then-Gov. Deval Patrick, and has been called the first statewide panel of its kind in the nation.

While Massachusetts was the first state to legalize gay marriage, the report notes that many of its older LGBT citizens came of age in far less tolerant times.

"The lives of today's older lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender people were molded under conditions of intense homophobia, both during their formative years, as well as throughout much of their adult lives," the commission wrote.

The stigma attached to homosexuality caused many LGBT people to become estranged from their families and have difficulty holding jobs, the report said. As a result, many lived on the margins of society and even now feel reluctant about seeking mainstream services available to other elders.

LGBT seniors are also less likely to have children, close family members or partners who can assist with daily living tasks and help them make important health care decisions. The report calls for improved training for elder service staffs on the "unique experiences and needs of LGBT seniors."

Though the state's record on gay and lesbian issues is largely progressive, it has fallen short in a key area of housing, the commission said.

"Boston and other Massachusetts cities are lagging behind Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco, which have all developed vibrant housing initiatives that are friendly and inclusive of LGBT older adults," the report stated. "Unfortunately, Massachusetts has nothing like this."


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