Older gay and lesbian seniors are people from a wide range of ethnicities and cultures, as well as socio-economic backgrounds.
Some are or have been married to a person of the opposite sex and have raised children. Others are in a relationship or are singles.
Some have "come out". However, many others have disclosed their sexual orientation to few, if any, of their family, friends and neighbours.
The exact number or percentage of gay and lesbian older adults in Canada is unknown. Canada first included questions on sexual orientation in the Canadian Community Health Survey conducted by Statistics Canada in 2003, and it was only asked of persons aged 18 to 59. In that survey, 1.2% of people aged 45 to 59 identified themselves as gay or lesbian.
No matter what the numbers or percentage of the gay and lesbian senior population, it is clear that many gays and lesbians who are now seniors have experienced a lifetime of marginalization, hostility, prejudice, and discrimination in Canada, as in many parts of the world.
It is only within the past decade that legal progress has been made to achieve some degree for of formal equality for gays and lesbians.
Click here for A Brief Canadian History of Laws Affecting Gays and Lesbians
Hostility and discrimination towards gays and lesbians can continue and resurface in later life, especially in the context of public and private housing and when trying to receive health and long term care, as well as other services. Sometimes, discrimination is inadvertent, such as when service providers ask questions that operate on the assumption that the older person is straight.
Older adults are the age group to most likely to have negative attitudes to same sex marriage.
In some parts of Canada, people are making efforts to clear up many of the myths and misconceptions about gays and lesbians, and to help assure that service providers respect and better understand the values and needs of gays and lesbians, no matter what their age.
Rebecca K. Glatzer (2005) Equality at the End: Amending State Surrogacy Statutes to Honor Same-Sex Couples' End-of-Life Decisions, 13 Elder Law Journal, 255.
Description: Describes how gays and lesbians who become mentally incapacitated (e.g. from an accident, a stroke or other serious condition) can experience health care consent and substitute consent laws that may not respect their pre-expressed wishes or their same sex relationships. Draws from American laws.
Egale Canada. Egale Canada advances equality and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-identified people, and their families, across Canada. Sites includes form for "Outlaws & Inlaws Your Guide to LGBT Rights, Same-Sex Relationships, and Canadian Law."
The Impact of Relationship Recognition on Lesbian Women in Canada: Still Separate and Only Somewhat "Equivalent" (September 2001) This report evaluates how the fact of relationship recognition affects lesbian and gay couples in terms of their legal, economic and social status. Status of Women Canada
Mary Hurley Sexual Orientation and Legal Rights. Parliament Information and Research Services. Revised May 2007.
Recognition of Lesbian Couples: An Inalienable Right (January 2002) This report focuses on legislative changes in Canada and internationally towards the recognition of lesbian relationships, and investigates the options for legal reform from a social perspective. Status of Women Canada
Challenging Prejudice: Changing attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people in Scotland. Online: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/212871/0056591.pdf
Description: This Scottish report offers recommendations in five theme areas: workplaces and public services; religion and belief; education and family; Media and leadership; citizenship and social capital, along with cross-cutting recommendations.
Council on Social Work Education. Module for Human Behavior and Social Environment Sequence Diversity and Older Adults: Gay Men and Lesbians California State University, Long Beach
Description: This module was prepared to be used in conjunction with the California State University course, Human Behavior and Environment II. The module is a resource to acquaint students about issues concerning older lesbian and gay individuals. It is intended to help students: • Be knowledgeable about lesbian and gay issues and concerns. • Be knowledgeable about older gay and lesbian issues and concerns. • Be sensitive to their personal issues regarding older gay and lesbian adults. • Be versed in the needs of older gay and lesbian adults as social work professions.
(2003) LGBT Persons in Chicago: Growing Older. Survey of Needs and Perceptions. Chicago Task Force on LGBT Aging.
Websites of Interest
American Society on Aging. Lesbian and Gay Aging Issues Network
The LGBT Aging Issues Network (LAIN) is a unit of the American Society on Aging. It brings together professionals in the field of aging to address the unique concerns of older lesbians and gay men. The site include a selection of articles from the group's quarterly newsletter, OutWord, as well as information on events, activities and membership.
Ten More Good Years. This is a website for the film of the same name. “Ten More Good Years” introduces LGBT Elders who share stories of their lives and Queer History. Their stories quietly reveal the governmental and social injustices and what it will be to grow old and Gay in America. The synopsis notes : "Outdated tax laws, Medicaid and Medicare regulations, Social Security and inheritance laws, a lack of Cultural Competency within Social Services, and the need for non-discriminatory housing are all issues currently facing the Elder LGBT population."
Includes ax excellent timeline of groundbreaking moments in LGBT history in the United States.