LGBT Aging Commission Report Advocates Policy Reforms For LGBT Seniors

A new report from the Special Legislative Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Aging recommends a set of large-scale reforms that will improve the lives of Massachusetts’ LGBT senior citizens.

The report was released at a State House briefing Thursday, September 17. Speakers in attendance included Senator Pat Jehlen and Representative James O’Day, co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs.

“We have long known that LGBT older adults face unique challenges as they age. Few of them have the family connections such as partners or spouses; children; and extended family who can provide the care that much of the general population relies on from their families as they age,” said Sen. Jehlen. “This first-in-the-nation state commission will provide a roadmap for giving our state’s LGBT older adults the care that they deserve, and it is one that other states can follow.”

Several Fenway Institute staff served on the LGBT Aging Commission, bringing their combined expertise on LGBT seniors to the creation of this report. Commission members included Lisa Krinksy, Director of The Fenway Institute’s LGBT Aging Project; Dr. Sean Cahill, Director of Health Policy Research at The Fenway Institute; and Dr. Judy Bradford, Co-Chair of The Fenway Institute.

The Commission was formed in 2013 when then-Governor Deval Patrick and the Massachusetts Legislature convened the country’s first statewide LGBT Aging Commission to assess the needs of the state’s elderly and aging LGBT population. In 2015, the legislature voted to make the Commission permanent.

2013 Ethos Pride Luncheon for LGBT Seniors (45)

LGBT elders from across Massachusetts are represented in this comprehensive report, which collects data from four public hearings held in Boston, Orleans, Worcester, and Holyoke. At each hearing, LGBT older adults and community advocacy groups spoke about the unique needs of and challenges faced by LGBT seniors in the Commonwealth. Prior to each hearing, the Commission also solicited written comments from the public.

“Many older LGBT people have faced numerous incidents of discrimination throughout their lives,” said Rep. O’Day. “They have every right to a future of dignity and safety, and the LGBT Aging Commission is working to facilitate that process.”

The report’s recommendations span five major areas: long-term support services; housing; public health; senior centers and community engagement; and legal considerations. The Commission also made recommendations around data collection; needs assessment; training and service delivery; and community outreach.

“This comprehensive report addresses the ways in which state government and it’s funded entities can ensure that LGBT older adults are treated with dignity and respect,” said Krinsky.

“Polling data indicate that older adults are more likely to morally disapprove of homosexuality. At the same time LGBT elders may be more in need of senior services, including formal caregiving support,” added Dr. Cahill. “We recommend cultural competency training of elder service providers to ensure that LGBT elders can fully access the supports they need in retirement.”

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