The First Openly Gay Generation Moves Into Its Elder Years

We like to think of ourselves as a society that respects our elders. Right?

But what if those elders are gay?

The first generation of Americans to live openly gay in large numbers is now moving into old age. Two items recently caught our attention on LGBT elders encountering prejudice and discrimination rather than honor and respect they deserve.

Minneapolis Star Tribune Columnist Gail Rosenblum tells about the struggles some LGBT elderly are facing as they move into senior living communities, both from staff and other residents. Rosenblum’s column is a preview to the screening of “Gen Silent,” a documentary about the unique challenges of six older members of the LGBT community trying to navigate the healthcare system. “It is a reminder,” Rosenblum writes, “that not everybody is receiving safe, quality and equal care as they age.”

Coincidentally, the Columbia University School of Public Health just issued a study documenting that LGBT people tend to die earlier in communities where citizens are less accepting of same-sex relationships. In communities with high anti-gay stigmas life expectancy of gays is shortened by as much as 12 years.

In another twist, the study’s lead author found in an earlier study that straight people with high levels of anti-gay prejudice died about three years earlier than straight people without strong anti-gay prejudice.

The study concludes: “The findings contribute to a growing body of research suggesting that reducing prejudice may improve the health of both minority and majority populations.”

Honor, especially in elder services, does not discriminate.