Being Gay and Aging

Loneliness, depression and poor health are serious risks for gay and lesbian seniors

Photo by Think Stock

Have you talked to an older person today? A new report suggests it matters, and that aging gay men and women have a greater risk of loneliness than many of their straight counterparts.

The YouGov survey – sponsored by a gay rights group in the U.K. called Stonewall – talked to gay, lesbian and bisexual people over the age of 55. Turns out that not only are they lonely, but they tend to be single and see their families a lot less than straight folks in the same age group. And while nine out of 10 heterosexual people of the same age have children, only about a quarter of gay, lesbian and bisexual seniors have kids.

“This pioneering research confirms what we already knew intuitively,” Ben Summerskill of Stonewall told the The Guardian, “that there are hundreds of thousands of lesbian and gay people growing older without the same family and support structures that many straight people enjoy. Quite often, that’s because their own families have disowned them just because of the way they were born.”

The biggest concerns about this new report is the relationship between loneliness, depression and poor health, which all seem to be related and impacting LGB seniors.

Several gay men and women in the survey revealed that their gayness makes them feel less connected to family, and that they are sad about not having support, especially if they’re single. Many also worry about what will happen if they lose their life partners.

As many as 72 percent of people interviewed admit that they are worried about needing care later in life – including medical assistance and housing. And as more senior gays and lesbians are open about their sexuality, they also worry about discrimination.

“For the first time this generation of aging gay people fully expects to be treated with respect by both public and commercial service providers,” Summerskill tells the paper. “They want to be able to share a room in an old people’s home or to be supported through their partner’s terminal illness just like anyone else.”

In Philly, the Silver Foxes is a senior group that meets every month at the William Way LGBT Community Center for socials and volunteer opportunities. Looking for a connection? Click here for more information.