Major National Report Highlights Social Isolation and Loneliness Impacting Older Adults

LGBT Elders highlighted as a particularly underserved and vulnerable population

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Recently, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (National Academies), with support from the AARP Foundation, released a groundbreaking report entitled Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System.

The report details how social isolation and loneliness dramatically impact the health and quality of life of older Americans. The National Academies, which bring uniquely important credibility to these topics, highlight severe health impacts of social isolation and loneliness, particularly among low-income, underserved, and vulnerable subpopulations. The report explicitly calls out LGBT, minority, and immigrant older people as those who may face barriers to care, stigma, and discrimination and makes significant recommendations in terms of responsive research and funding.

SAGE applauded the National Academies on the release of this groundbreaking report and the report’s recognition that LGBT elders are a population of particularly acute need.

Among other key points, the report highlights that “individuals who identify as LGBTQ are more likely to say there are lonely.” The LGBT-related findings of the National Academies are consistent with SAGE’s experience working with tens of thousands of LGBT older adults across the country as well as the small but growing body of research documenting that particular challenges that LGBT elders face as they age.

While social isolation and loneliness are not always correlated, LGBT older people both report disproportionately high levels of loneliness and are often severely isolated as they age due in part to the relative absence of traditional family structures in their lives: they are 3-4 times less likely to have children, twice as likely to live alone, and twice as likely to be single. These realities – as well as the looming problem of LGBT elders’ inability to access welcoming, culturally competent services, care, and housing – present stark challenges to healthy aging in LGBT communities.

SAGE and the Human Rights Campaign have combined efforts to create the Long-Term Care Equality Index (LEI) to promote equitable and inclusive care for LGBTQ elders in long-term care communities. According to SAGE and the HRC, the LEI is a tool that will “encourage and help residential long-term care communities to adopt policies and best practices that provide culturally competent and responsive care to LGBT older adults.” The LEI will also provide resources and assistance to help the implementation of best practices and policies.

The LEI and work of the National Academies has brought to the surface the public health crisis of social isolation and loneliness among older Americans in general, and the particularly acute challenges that LGBT older adults confront. For further details about the LEI, follow the link below.