Covering the many challenges LGBTQ adults face as they age

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Photo: lewishamdreamer via Flickr

Photo: lewishamdreamer via Flickr

Health concerns for aging members of the LGBT community are numerous and varied – from battling multiple chronic diseases due to lack of preventive care to fighting prejudice within the health system when trying to obtain services.

Some of the unique health and social needs of older LGBT adults was the focus of a recent Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging conference in Cleveland. Presentations and panels featuring top-tier experts presented valuable lessons for journalists interested in reporting on LGBT aging, says AHCJ member Eileen Beal, a longtime writer on aging who attended the event.

In this new tip sheet, Beal points out that many of the so-called realities of the social and financial (and by extension, health) status portrayed in the media have little to do with what is taking place in U.S. communities. For example, Beal reported that many LGBT elders could be forced to go back into the closet as they age, particularly if they live in rural areas, are poor or less educated. They often lack social support from family and friends, and may live in areas without community-based LGBT aging services.

Myths and misconceptions about older LGBT adults abound, leading to severe health disparities, distrust of health providers, and cultural insensitivity in the health system. There also is a scarcity of qualified caregivers and well-trained medical providers, especially in the area of mental health. Moreover, good data on this segment of the aging population is lacking. Baby boomers have been the first generation able to live openly as gay or transgender, so there’s little historical information from which to draw comparisons.

Beal’s tip sheet offers a wealth of information and story ideas for reporters covering LGBT aging. It also includes an extensive resource list – including reports, studies, data, websites, sources and organizations – to help you navigate the complex layers of this issue.

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