Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) individuals face countless struggles as they go through life, and a new study reveals that they are also much more fearful than average Americans of entering their retirement years.
Conducted by Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), the study finds that GLBT older Americans have significant anxieties over financial security in retirement, over a lack of personal support networks, and a strong fear of retiring alone. GLBT seniors are also less likely to seek the help of professional retirement planners, despite the great need that most have for such assistance.
SAGE Executive Director Michael Adams discussed the findings of the recent study “Out and Visible: The Experiences and Attitudes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Older Adults.” The report is based on a survey of 1,857 LGBT people and 519 non-LGBT people, aged 45-75.
“We know from experience working with LGBT older people across the country that there are heightened levels of concern around Social Security in the elder years, around housing in the elder years, around health issues in the elder years, and in our experience those concerns are greater than those of other Americans,” Adams said. “We were looking to see in the survey if that was the case quantitatively and to what degree, and more specifically, around what issues. You’ll see in the report we did in fact find some pretty significant concerns and differences relative to older Americans in general.”
A Need For LGBT Retirement Data
SAGE is the oldest and largest LGBT organization in the country focusing on the needs and interests of LGBT older adults. The organization offers both services and programs for LGBT adults, as well as policy advocacy, education and training for elder needs.
The motivation for the “Out and Visible” study was simple, Adams said: “One of the challenges we face is that there is very little information about LGBT older adults. So this is the first market study on LGBT older people.”
The study revealed four trends in particular that should be of concern to retirement planners.
“First, there is significantly higher concern about financial security in retirement years among LGBT individuals than they are among older Americans in general,” Adams said.
“Second are concerns about support networks, and fears people have of aging alone. It is much higher than older Americans in general,” Adams said.
“Third are concerns regarding the relationship that LGBT Americans have with the healthcare providers. Very high numbers of LGBT folks reported that they are not ‘out’ to their healthcare provider, and they feel that if they were ‘out’ they would face significant problems,” he said.
“Finally, the data around housing [revealed strong] concerns about housing discrimination. At the same time a very high percentage of LGBT people expressed a strong interest in potentially living in LGBT-specific older adult housing or retirement communities,” Adams said.
Levels of Fear And Anxiety Run High
There are a number of reasons why LGBT individuals approach retirement with higher levels of fear and anxiety, the study finds.
“One is the very acute levels of social isolation as LGBT people age,” Adams said. “This is in part defined by the fact that LGBT people are four times less likely to be parents than older Americans in general, and twice as likely to be single and living alone. These social dynamics create higher levels of isolation, and fear of isolation, in the later years.”