Fighting Isolation Helps LGBTQ Elders Thrive, Study Finds

More than anyone, LGBTQ elders need strong social networks.

It’s no secret LGBTQ elders face unique struggles within the community. But when these elders live in rural areas, the challenges are even harder to manage without community support. In fact, finding a strong social network can help them thrive rather than merely survive.

National group SAGE—Advocacy and Services for LGBT Elders—hosts a monthly discussion group for all-ages. Last year’s events brought together more than 3,500 participants from across the country with potlucks and other gatherings that have encouraged this vulnerable group to create a community, fostering support and ultimately helping them live longer.

In a recent report for the John A. Hartford Foundation, NextAvenue detailed the necessity of community building for LGBTQ elders living in rural areas. Though these men and women have learned to overcome or navigate discrimination without the support systems of LGBTQ members in urban areas, there is an increase of vulnerability in terms of isolation.

Because legislature protecting the rights of LGBTQ elders isn’t consistent across the country (60 states don’t explicitly prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people, and there’s no federal law upholding protection), many resources aimed at assisting the elderly can deny housing and care for those who need it most. A recent ad created by SAGE and the Movement Advancement Project illustrates this in hopes of raising awareness of the challenges standing between LGBTQ elders and necessary care.

No matter where they reside, LGBTQ elders face increased challenges when it comes to accessing healthcare and affordable housing. One of the few studies examining support for urban and rural elders found that rural-based elders were “less out” than their urban-based peers. LGBTQ elders were also found more likely to live alone and less likely to have children able to care for them as they age, making community support even more important.

To offset some of these specific challenges, improving the ease with which LGBTQ elders can connect to one another has been found to have a positive effect on their overall livelihood.

Writer for NewNowNext, Refinery29, Wear Your Voice, BitchMedia, etc. Budding sex educator. @NerdsOfPreycast cohort. She/Her.