What Happens When We Get Older?

As the US population ages, ensuring that our society adequately supports us all as we get older becomes more important than ever. Researchers and advocates have recently turned increased attention to LGBT aging issues, highlighting discrimination against LGBT elders in long-term care facilities and in federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. However, there has been little research, discussion or advocacy on transgender older adults. Indeed, the recent Institute of Medicine report on LGBT health identified transgender aging as a major gap in existing health-related research. And the amount that has been written about transgender aging in any field makes for a very short reading list. While many challenges and issues are common to LGBT older adults, we know there are also issues that are particularly important for transgender older adults.

To this end, NCTE and SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) are collaborating on the Transgender Aging Advocacy Initiative with the goal of developing an agenda for meeting the public policy needs transgender older adults. By consulting with community leaders, health care providers and policy experts from around the country, we hope to identify achievable policy goals at the state and national level that would materially benefit transgender people as they age, and enable them to live in good health, safety, dignity and independence in their later years. We are examining issues such as long-term care, veteran’s services, economic security, access to transition-related care, aging research, area agencies on aging, and building cultural competence for health care providers.

We also know that the U.S. Administration on Aging is interested in addressing the needs of all LGBT elders. Department of HHS Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee spoke at NCTE’s policy conference earlier this year and shared both her own and her agency’s commitment to these issues. NCTE and SAGE are developing recommendations for the Administration on Aging and other federal agencies to better understand and address the needs of LGBT elders, with particular attention to the needs of older transgender people.

We all worry about our security and independence as we age. Transgender people should have all the opportunities and supports in later life that any older person might need.

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