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Older Illinois LGBTQ adults lack healthcare access, financial security, caregiving

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A new report from AARP Illinois and SAGE found that many senior members of the Illinois LGBTQ community struggle to get access to healthcare, financial security and caregiving.

“As we enter LGBTQ History Month, this groundbreaking research is a sobering reminder of how events of the past still play a role in the way LGBTQ adults 50+ live today. Because of decades of discrimination, LGBTQ older adults fall behind their non-LGBTQ counterparts when it comes to having health care they need, retirement savings, and caregiving support as they age,” said Mary Anderson, AARP Illinois Director of Outreach and Advocacy for Northern Illinois.

The Illinois Department on Aging (IDA) said the would use the report support the work of advocacy groups with the General Assembly. “This report provides a roadmap for how we can address common challenges facing the aging LGBTQ population, and I look forward to working with AARP of Illinois, SAGE, and our LGBTQ community partners to implement its recommendations,” said IDA Director Paula Basta.

Some of the findings in the report include:

  • Nearly one-third of LGBTQ older people live at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.
  • Poverty rates are even higher for LGBTQ older people of color, those aged 80 and older, bisexual older people, and transgender older people.
  • Much of this poverty is because of discriminatory systems. For example, 83 percent of LGBTQ older adults rely mostly on Social Security for their retirement funds – yet most LGBTQ older adults do not qualify for Social Security survivor benefits, their partner’s retirement or pension benefits, or their partner’s assets.
  • LGBTQ older people experience mental and physical health disparities due to the lack of competent, inclusive health care, lifelong experiences of discrimination, and social isolation.
  • Many older LGBTQ adults provide care to friends who are their “chosen family.” Because of decades of discrimination in our legal and social structures, LGBTQ older adults do not have traditional family to rely upon for care.

According to AARP Illinois, this is the first time data was collected specifically to learn about the elder LGBTQ community.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Basta, AARP Illinois and SAGE representatives called on legislative leaders to read the report and recognize the need for inclusive services and supports.

“It’s never been more clear that LGBTQ older adults in Illinois need our help in order to overcome the negative impact discrimination has had on their health, wealth and ability to care for their aging loved ones,” Anderson said. “Let’s use the momentum of LGBTQ Pride and interest in LGBTQ History month to help older LGBTQ adults live the lives they deserve.”

You can read the full report here.

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