Monday, September 9, 2013

When I’m 64

Even hot young hunks grow old.

It won’t be for a few years yet for me, but a lot of people my age and of my orientation are beginning to wonder what life will be like in retirement.

Despite the stereotype of the affluent gay, more LGBT seniors live in poverty than their straight counterparts. Half reach retirement with only $10,000 in the bank. They are far less likely than younger gays to be partnered or married. They’re more likely to be childless and estranged from their birth families, leaving them to weather the challenges of retirement alone. Even those with long-term partners are at a disadvantage, despite recent legal breakthroughs. In June, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, putting some gay couples on equal legal footing with straight couples for the first time, but that’s little help to older gay couples who have missed out on decades’ worth of tax and insurance breaks.

All those factors leave queer seniors with fewer retirement options than their straight counterparts. Without the social support or financial means to ensure independence, they often become separated from their gay communities and “families of choice.” Whether they rely on home-care workers or move into assisted-living facilities paid for by Medicaid, they often encounter staff and residents who are not comfortable with gay people. Fearful of mistreatment, many feel compelled to go back into the closet-—particularly painful for members of the generation that invented the politics of coming out. For those who aren’t lucky enough to settle down in a place like Carefree Cove, the golden years can still look a lot like the pre-Stonewall years.

I had recent occasion to visit a local retirement community on behalf of people who were looking in to moving there.  One of the questions I asked was if they allowed same-sex couples.  I am happy to report that they said yes, and even pointed several out to me.  But even if they do, a lot of elderly gay people — partnered or not — may face issues in their later years that straight people don’t.

Something to think about and plan for.

2 barks and woofs on “When I’m 64

  1. I have been living this nightmare for the last few years. Russ has been disabled for years. I have no idea what a mess it would be about survivor benefits etc. I just mowed the front yard and ran the weeder; how much longer I can care for this house, is anyone’s guess. At some point, I will have to give up housekeeping and move in with one of my daughters if I live much longer.

  2. In 1978, the summer I turned 30, I had the good fortune to serve on the faculty of the American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS) in Graz, Austria, an opera training institute for American opera singers wanting to perform in European houses. (No, I did NOT teach opera singing!) Approximately half the faculty was gay; indeed, it’s possible the straight faculty got a taste of minority status that summer. But it was educational for everyone.

    I’ll never forget one faculty member at the farewell party, accompanying himself singing a song titled, “Nobody Loves a Fairy When S/He’s Forty,” a song I was certain was NOT written about that fortyish, very good-looking, very musically talented man. But the song made me look around at the Institute and at home at the committed gay couples I knew, and realizing (probably for the first time) just how vastly and unjustly different their circumstances were from those of married straight people as they aged.

    With the changes in law this year, things should get better instantly… but we all know they won’t. Look how long racial prejudice has outlasted laws intended to put a stop to it. Bigotry, by race or by orientation, has a life of its own. Even if someone “loves a fairy when he’s forty,” all of us, gay and straight, face a long uphill battle against the hatred of people regarded somehow as different. Onward into the fray…

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