Bill Would Establish Office of Inclusivity and Sexual Health, Reauthorize National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, and Create Rural Grant Program
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Bob Casey (D-PA) today introduced the Inclusive Aging Act to create and expand services to address sexual health care for older Americans and the diverse needs of older lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) Americans.
“Our outdated laws are limiting care and resources for an entire generation of LGBTQ+ Americans,” said Bennet. “LGBTQ+ seniors already face significant barriers to accessing quality health care, especially if they live in rural communities. By establishing programs that make investments in the organizations assisting LGBTQ+ seniors, we will better meet the diverse needs of the LGBTQ+ community.”
“Now that we’ve identified a gap in services for some of most vulnerable populations, including in rural communities, it’s key that we work to meet those needs,” said Murkowski. “It’s shocking to learn that almost half of people living with HIV across the nation are older than age fifty and that the rate of sexually transmitted infections is on the rise for individuals over sixty years old. This legislation works to expand supportive health services, specifically sexual health education and counseling for older Americans. It’s important that we promote the inclusion of all seniors, and work to increase access to care and services for their overall health and well-being.”
“For far too long the needs of LGBT elders and seniors living in rural communities have been overlooked,” said Casey, Ranking Member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. “The Inclusive Aging Act would expand access to culturally competent health care services for LGBT elders and help reduce social isolation among older Americans in rural areas.”
Nearly half of people living with HIV in the United States are age 50 or older, and the rate of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among individuals above the age of 65 is increasing. Additionally, older Americans who identify as LGBTQ+, especially those of color and those living in rural areas, face increased health risks and additional barriers to care. Yet the national focus on sexual health is centered on younger populations.
The Inclusive Aging Act would build on the Older Americans Act, which already invests millions of dollars in supporting older Americans, to direct resources toward improving the sexual health of older Americans—including LGBTQ+ and rural senior populations. The bill would establish the Office of Inclusivity and Sexual Health in the Administration on Aging; establish a rural grant program to fund training and resources for care; and reauthorize the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging—the country's only technical assistance resource center aimed at improving the quality of services and support for older LGBTQ+ individuals. The Inclusive Aging Act expands on legislation Bennet first introduced in 2015 to improve services for LGBTQ+ seniors.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM-1) today introduced the Elder Pride Act to create the Office of Inclusivity and Sexual Health and establish the rural grant program. This follows legislation introduced by Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-1), the Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act, to establish and fund the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging and designate older LGBTQ+ Americans as a population of “Greatest Social Need.” Together, these bills match the scope of the Senate’s Inclusive Aging Act.
The Inclusive Aging Act is supported by Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE), Human Rights Campaign, Diverse Elders Coalition, National Black Justice Coalition, CenterLink, National Center for Transgender Equality, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD), and National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA).
“SAGE thanks Senators Michael Bennet, Lisa Murkowski, and Bob Casey for taking this critically important step to address the unique needs of LGBT older people, especially those suffering from severe isolation because of who they are or where they live,” said SAGE CEO Michael Adams. “Many LGBT elders face high levels of discrimination and barriers to accessing services and care. Although there are a variety of federal programs designed to assist them, none are specifically designed to provide equal access to services for LGBT older people. This legislation would change that.”