The percentage of individuals age 65 or older who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trangender or queer (LGBTQ+) is expected to grow from 12.8% to an estimated 19% in 2030. These individuals – who lived in a time before more widespread LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance – often suffer from significant disparities and unique health needs.
In an effort to reach out to LGBTQ+ seniors, one Houston organization has created a food drive to benefit those in need. The Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce is accepting donations on Dec. 10 which will then be passed on to The Montrose Center for its holiday boxes, which are gathered every year for seniors.
“It’s incomprehensible that so many of our LGBTQ+ seniors, who have paved the way for the LGBTQ+ community, will not have food on their tables during the holidays,” Chamber President and CEO Tammi Wallace said in a statement. “Yet, this is a problem that is happening in our own backyard because so many LGBTQ+ seniors in our community face food insecurity.”
Items collected will benefit the Montrose Center, which strives to empower its community of LGBTQ+ individuals and their families to live healthier, more fulfilling lives. The center provides an integrated care model with one-stop access to behavioral health and support services, adult primary care and psychiatry, and free wellness programs to empower individuals to proactively participate in their own care. Additionally, the Montrose Center serves as the cultural hub of Houstons’ LGBTQ+ community.
Last year, the food drive helped the Montrose Center collect the largest amount of food and monetary donations in history of holding the drive. Interested individuals can contribute to this year’s holiday food drive online or via two drop-off locations.
Finding care for LGBTQ+ seniors
LGBTQ+ older adults may disproportionately be affected by poverty and physical and mental health conditions due to the unique stressors associated with being a minority and may have faced discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Social isolation is also a concern as LGBTQ+ adults are more likely to be single and less likely to have children as compared to their heterosexual counterparts.
In addition to suffering from food insecurity, LGBTQ+ seniors often have a hard time finding appropriate caregivers. The LGBTQ+ Aging Project, a nonprofit that advocates for equal access to life-prolonging services, found that only 22% of respondents felt they could be open about their sexual identies with health care staff. An overwhelming amount reported a fear of discrimination or mistreatment. However, there’s also a lack of service providers directly targeted at helping the LGBTQ+ senior population. As a result, many LGBTQ+ seniors decline to share more personal information with health care providers or are pushed “back into the closet” when entering long-term care.
Caregivers for LGBTQ+ must take special considerations to ensure they’re treating elders with care and respect. SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Elders) recommends caregivers take the following steps:
- Mirror language – Use the same words as the LGBTQ+ senior to describe a significant other (e.g., friend,” “roommate” or “partner”).
- Ask open-ended questions – Questions like “Tell me about yourself” or “Who are the important people in your life?” will help build communication, understanding and trust.
- Continuing education – Many LGBTQ+ organizations offer training or continuing education opportunities to help caregivers navigate how to treat LGBTQ+ seniors with dignity and respect.
Learn more about finding LGBTQ+ friendly caregivers.