The LGBT Elder Americans Act

A Critical Analysis of Policy through Life Course and Equity Perspectives


  • Austin G. Oswald Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • Daniel Gardner Silberman School of Social Work, Hunter College
  • Nancy Giunta Silberman School of Social Work, Hunter College



Gerontology, policy change, sexual orientation, gender identity, LGBT, older adults, LGBT Elder Americans Act


The social positioning of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older adults is influenced by a constellation of historic and contemporary policies that shape the way they interact with the world around them. Although the past few decades have witnessed several legislative decisions that reflect a more open stance toward LGBT individuals, there remains a lack of federal policies that protect them. This paper provides a critical analysis of the LGBT Elder Americans Act of 2019, a bill amending the Older Americans Act of 1965 to include LGBT older adults in the definition of those with “greatest social needs” for the purpose of service planning and implementation. As a theoretical framework, we apply a life course perspective and an equity lens to examine the promise and limitations of the LGBT Elder Americans Act in meeting the needs of LGBT older adults. It is critically important for social work practitioners, policy makers, and scholars to understand the principles that drive policy debates so that they can advocate on behalf of the most vulnerable members of the population. We offer three recommendations for future policy making: i) Apply a life course perspective to understand the lived experiences of LGBT elders; ii) Apply an equity lens to public policy; and iii) Expand research to guide and advance policy development.


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