Differences explained

Research shows time and again that while getting old is hard for us all, it is tougher on those who identify as LGBTQ+. There’s no biological reason for that. On the contrary, the root causes are complex — and interconnected.

Many older LGBTQ+ adults came of age at a time when social acceptance of minority gender and sexual identities was virtually non-existent. They likely experienced employment discrimination, which led to lower wages, which led to less retirement savings. They are four times less likely to have kids, which leaves them with no one to care for them as they age, which means they have to find a nursing home they can actually afford. And when they start to feel lonely or depressed, they are not inclined to seek help from mental health professionals. After all, being gay was once characterized as a mental illness, and doctors regularly referred transgender individuals to psychiatrists so that they could be "cured" of their alleged mental disorder.

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Explore in this article why aging is a different, and often more challenging, experience for older LGBTQ+ adults.

Why aging can be tougher on gays


Brenoff, A. (2015, July 12). Why aging can be tougher on gays. HuffPost. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/5-problems-of-aging-while-gay_us_559fd6d0e4b01c2162a64e91

Fredriksen-Goldsen, K., Kim, H.J., Barkan, S., Muraco, A., & Hoy-Ellis C. P. (2011). The aging and health report: Disparities and resilience among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender older adults. Institute for Mutigenerational Health. https://www.lgbtagingcenter.org/resources/pdfs/LGBT%20Aging%20and%20Health%20Report_final.pdf

Gender Identity Gender identity icon Our core sense of who we are as a man, a woman, a mixture of both, or neither.

Gender Expression Gender expression icon How we show up in the world through choices like clothing, hair style, mannerisms or tone of voice.

Attraction attraction icon How we feel toward others sexually, romantically and/or emotionally.

Biological Sex Biological sex icon Physical attributes such as reproductive organs and genitalia, chromosomes, genes and hormone levels.

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In 2011, the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Aging agreed to fund the Aging and Health Report, produced by the LGBTQ+ National Aging Research Center. The report is one of the first federally funded research projects on LGBTQ+ aging and offers insight into everything from rates of depression among this population to the prevalence of loneliness. Check out the full report to learn more about the challenges facing aging Americans who identify as LGBTQ+.

The Aging and Health Report

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Take a deep dive into the data from a 2017 study issued by the University of Washington, which looks closely at the health-related issues confronting lesbian, gay, and bisexual older adults.

Chronic Health Conditions and Key Health Indicators Among Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Older US Adults, 2013-2014

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