I’ve been thinking about this and I think the suffering of GLBT elderly people is threefold.
As GLBT people they are subject to homophobia, discrimination and prejudice. This occurs more so within insititions such as aged care facilities, hospitals or schools. This phenomena is not unique to elderly people but is experienced in varying degrees across the lifespan.
As elderly people they are subject to agism, discrimination and prejudice. In a world that exaults the healthy, able bodied male the structural and social inequalities faced are huge. Elderly people are less mobile, more prone to mental illnesses and disabilities such as dementia, tend to be poorer and over time have decreased cognitive abilities. Socially elderly people are seen as past their prime, forgetful, difficult, slow, vunerable, asexual and living in the past.
GLBT people also have a unique history of persecution and secrecy that I believe has a role here to one degree to another. Elderly people today lived through Stonewall, they could possibly have been jailed for being gay or lived in constant fear of being found out. They lived in a time where discrimination against them was legal and sanctioned. They did not have access to the resources that we do today and possibly suffered severe isolation. It would not be surprising to find out that they still have this fear and that it contributes to their continued isolation and anxiety.
I think it’s the combination of these things is what makes the plight of GLBT elderly people one which needs attention. It’s a fact that the suicide rates of GLBT are higher proportionally than those of elderly people generally. However, it should also be noted that elderly people in general have a high suicide rate when compared to the whole population.