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LGBTQ+ Seniors to Have Access to Expanded Services in N.Y.


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    NEW YORK (Advocate Channel) — A new law will make it easier for older LGBTQ+ people in New York to access free meal deliveries, caregiver assistance, mental and physical care, and other services.

As a result of the new law signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul this week, LGBTQ+ people in New York who suffer disproportionately from poverty and isolation now have access to more services.

The state’s Office for the Aging now must take into account gender identity, sexual orientation, and HIV status when assessing the needs of older New Yorkers. Additionally, the agency must consider language barriers, disabilities, racial isolation, and other non-economic factors when determining eligibility for services.

As of 2012, the United States Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging has issued new guidance on the definition of the “greatest social need” in the Older Americans Act that now includes people isolated because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“There is drastic inequity in physical and mental care for older adults in the LGBTQ community,” Hochul said in a statement. “This legislation is an important step in addressing those inequities while helping ensure LGBTQ older New Yorkers receive the same respect and support as anyone else in the state.”

One of the state lawmakers behind the bill, Assemblymember Harry Bronson, said, “The Older American’s Act affects everyone—older adults, people who help support them, and all of us who hope to one day grow old. It also underpins a promise to preserve the right to live independently, with dignity, making everyday decisions according to our individual preferences and goals across our lifespan.”

At SAGE, a national organization that helps older LGBTQ+ people enjoy a more fulfilling life, Aaron Tax is the managing director of government affairs and policy advocacy.

He tells The Advocate that SAGE is thrilled with Hochul’s signature on the new law.

“The Older Americans Act was put into place to make sure that older people could age in their own communities, but too often older LGBTQ+ people – who need social services more often than their straight and cisgender peers – are hesitant in getting this help,” Tax says. “This is due to a lifetime of stigma, discrimination, and well-documented exclusion from government programs.”

Tax explains that by including LGBTQ+ elders and older people living with HIV or AIDS as a population of “greatest social need” under the Older Americans Act, those pioneers of the LGBTQ+ movement have easy access to programs like Meals on Wheels and local aging services.

According to SAGE, LGBTQ+ elders are twice as likely to live alone and four times less likely to have children than their straight counterparts. For that reason, as LGBTQ+ people age in America, it becomes difficult to do so gracefully in their homes and communities due to a lack of support.

This lack of support is exacerbated by scapegoating the LGBTQ+ community and alienating the queer and trans communities.

Tax points toward the current contentious political climate in which the LGBTQ+ community is under attack by right-wing conservatives, Republican legislatures, and governors. Many older LGBTQ+ people fall through the cracks and suffer unnecessarily.

“We know that this continues to be a contentious climate for the LGBTQ+ community. For older LGBTQ+ people, in particular, some may go back in the closet when going to a senior center or hide their true identity when attempting to seek services they so crucially need,” Tax says. “That is why legislation like this needs to happen in every state in this country.”

He explains that the SAGE Old and Bold: Services for All campaign was created to ensure LGBTQ+ elders and older people living with HIV have access to welcoming aging services and support regardless of location. It provides resources for aging agencies, caregivers, and those who support older adults.

According to Tax, communities must ensure LGBTQ+ people age with dignity and respect. It should also not be scary to access services like meal assistance, senior center programs, health, and wellness promotion, caregiver support, enrollment in benefits, and transportation.

“We thank Governor Hochul for her support, as well as Assemblymember Harry Bronson, who sponsored the legislation in the state House,” Tax adds.

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