The Realities of Transgender Aging

A new resource provides insights into the issues aging trans men and women face

Thanks to Sage (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), transgender men and women have a new guidebook on what to anticipate as they get older. Improving the Lives of Transgender Older Adults: Recommendations for Policy and Practice not only takes on the current state of transgender aging, but also anticipates the challenges that older adults will face in their lifetimes – including disparities in health and healthcare access, employment and housing.

“Transgender individuals face many challenges associated with aging, including declining health, diminished income and the loss of friends and family. Yet they also face additional challenges such as discrimination and hostility when accessing the services meant to support older adults,” says Michael Adams, Executive Director of SAGE. “Now, with this report, policymakers and aging service providers will gain a clear picture of the current state of transgender aging, and a roadmap of what they can do to improve policies and practices to ensure that transgender older adults age successfully.”

The report includes a detailed literature review, profiles of personal experiences of transgender elders around the country, and more than 60 recommendations for aging transgender seniors. There are four specific goals that both groups would like to achieve in the next decade:

  • Inclusion and nondiscrimination in aging services by classifying LGBT seniors as a group with social need and reconsidering protections of older Americans to include all LGBT people.
  • Developing LGBT competency trainings and providing tools for long-term care facilities that also includes gender identity.
  • Updating the Social Security Administration policies to permit individuals to change their gender designation without intrusive medical information and eliminating gender as a data field in the agency’s automated verification programs.
  • Including questions about gender identity and sexual orientation in federally-funded population-based surveys.
  • The report event cites a 2005 study in Philadelphia that revealed many transgender people lack a primary care doctor. The study found that one-third of the transgender population in Philly had no regular doctor at all.

    “Transgender older adults want to live healthy and independent lives and maintain dignity as they age,” says Harper Jean Tobin of NCTE’s Policy Counsel. “But this population faces unique challenges that the aging field, as well as the LGBT community, need to pay attention to.”

    For more information about the report and issues related to LGBT aging, please visit SAGE’s website and NCTE’s website.