Earlier this year New York City welcomed the opening of the nation’s first ever LGBT Senior facility. The SAGE Center (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) is located in Manhattan on 27th Street in North Chelsea. As our New York elder law attorneys noted in a previous post on the center (see here) the facility will provide a range of services for the often-vulnerable members of this community. Many LGBT seniors have an increased need for support at this time because they are less likely to have adult children providing help when they age.
Fortunately, more and more advocates and community members across the county are recognizing the unique needs of this community. As reported by GSFLA News this week, the nation’s first White House LGBT Conference on Aging was held on Monday. The three day conference was opened by U.S. Representative and chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. In her remarks, Rep. Wasserman-Schultz noted that the long-term care needs of this community always existed, but they previously existed “in the shadows.” She went on to note the important of elder law issues, explained that, like all senior communities, LGBT elders need a wide range of support services down the road.
Other speakers at the event included an administrator at the U.S. Health and Human Services Department and an assistant secretary for policy development and research at the Housing & Urban Development Department. The two spoke on the crucial issues of senior healthcare and housing.
One SAGE board member attending the event summarized the need for increased attention on the issue by echoing thoughts often made by New York elder law attorneys: “They [LGBT seniors] are ill-prepared for their situations. There’s been very little education available to individuals as to the needs that will arise and the resources that are available or not available to meet those needs.”
The executive director of SAGE USA in New York has said that the best estimates available suggest that there are about two million LGBT American seniors in the U.S. That community is expected to grow in the coming years. Laws across the country make it difficult for elderly same-sex seniors and couples to receive the same protections as other couples. This is true even in states like New York where marriage is legal. For example, in 1988 Congress enacted laws to protect senior couples from “Medicaid Spousal Impoverishment,” by ensuring that one spouse is more likely to keep a family house and savings if the other enters a nursing home. Those protections do not apply to same-sex couples–necessitating special planning.
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