The 130th Annual Meeting of APHA

3139.0: Monday, November 11, 2002 - 12:48 PM

Abstract #35304

Issues of substance abuse, aging, sexual orientation, & gender identity: Who cares?

Nancy J. Kennedy, DrPH, Office of the Director, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention/SAMHSA/DHHS, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockwall II, Suite 920, Rockville, MD 20857, 301-443-9453,

By the year 2020, 20% of the U.S. population will be older than 65, living in a society that, heretofore, has seldom appreciated being elderly. In fact, our definitions of what constitutes “older Americans” are changing. Nonetheless, older Americans experience discrimination and stigma, especially if they are disabled, and/or, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT). Anecdotal reports indicate discrimination against LGBT elders, including forced separation of long-term partners in nursing homes and discriminatory comments by staff and/or other residents of retirement communities. LGBT elders, similar to the heterosexual elderly, depend upon government programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. But, there is not parity. For example, legally licensed opposite-sex co-habitators, even if not officially married, may be eligible to receive a portion of the partner’s Social Security payments following his/her death and other amenities; such privileges do not exist for same-sex co-habitators.

The diagnosis of many diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and HIV are no longer automatic death sentences, because of modern technology, especially medications. Both the number of prescriptions and over-the-counter medications increase with age. Alcohol interactions with both types of products account for most of the substance use related problems older adults experience. Alcohol consumption rates among gay men and lesbians do not seem to decrease with age as quickly as they do among heterosexuals, perhaps increasing the risk of substance abuse problems within those populations. Unfortunately, few agencies or even community-based organizations exist to meet the social services and health care needs of LGBT seniors.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Elderly, Underserved Populations

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
Organization/institution whose products or services will be discussed: Department of Health and Human Services including the Office on Agency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
I have a significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.
Relationship: Employed within the Department of Health and Human Services at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Health-Related Concerns of Aging Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Persons

The 130th Annual Meeting of APHA