Governor Kathy Hochul on October 17 signed legislation bolstering the state’s efforts to serve LGBTQ older adults under the Older Americans Act of 1965 by making it easier to provide resources for seniors based on racial and ethnic identity, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and HIV status.
The existing federal law is already aimed at protecting seniors who are in rural areas or who have multiple disabilities, limited English, Alzheimers or other forms of dementia, as well as people with economic needs or those facing the “greatest social need.” States are allowed to customize aspects of its programs under the law, so the State Legislature’s new law codifies the LGBTQ-inclusive additions in the context of “the greatest social need.”
“As governor, one of my top priorities is making sure all New Yorkers receive the care and help they need regardless of their identity,” Hochul said in a written statement. “There is drastic inequity in physical and mental care for older adults in the LGBTQ community, and this legislation is an important step in addressing those inequities while helping ensure LGBTQ older New Yorkers receive the same respect and support as anyone else in the state.”
The bill was carried in both chambers by out gay lawmakers. State Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan led the bill in the upper house, while Assemblymember Harry Bronson of Rochester spearheaded the effort in the lower chamber.
“The federal Older Americans Act is one of the most important vehicles for providing our elders with ‘the greatest social need’ the necessary resources needed to lead dignified lives, and we must ensure New York administers the Act holistically,” Hoylman said in a written statement.
When the bill passed the State Senate last year, Hoylman explained that many LGBTQ people who are currently seniors previously came out decades ago at a time when they may have been shut out by family members, evicted from their homes, or fired from their jobs.
“As a result, LGBTQ elders tend to be more isolated, have smaller support networks, and less financial stability than their peers,” Hoylman said last year. “This legislation will ensure that New York prioritizes connecting LGBTQ elders to the LGBTQ-affirming services and support they need to age with dignity.”
After Hochul signed the bill, Bronson underscored the Older Americans Act’s impact on families and friends of older adults who are tasked with the responsibility of caring for seniors.
“The Older American’s Act affects everyone — older adults, people who help support them, and all of us who hope to one day grow old,” Bronson said in a written statement. “It also underpins a promise to preserve the right to live independently, with dignity, making everyday decisions according to our individual preferences and goals across our lifespan.”
The bill passed the State Senate in March of 2021 despite the opposition of Republicans Fred Akshar of Binghamton, Andrew Lanza of Staten Island, George M. Borrello of western New York, Thomas O’Mara of Ithaca and Elmira, and Robert G. Ortt of Niagra County. More than a year later, in May of this year, it cleared the Assembly.