An LGBT senior holds a pride flag in a field in Oregon

Getting older is challenging enough. Aging as a member of the LGBTQ+ community can be even more so. More than 3 million LGBTQ+ Americans are over age 50. Many of us don’t have grown children to help us as we age. However, with a long history of fighting discrimination, we have built strength, resilience, and humor that will serve us well in later years. Read more to find out how to help protect your rights, assets, dignity, and well-being as you get older.

Get your legal act together

While any estate attorney can plan your estate, many experts recommend finding one specializing in LGBTQ+ estate planning. This is especially true if you have a partner but aren’t married. What’s more, you may have an ex-spouse, children from a previous or current relationship, and other relatives who may or may not deserve to share your wealth. It can get complicated quickly. The best thing you can do is have an estate plan and a will or a trust that explicitly states your wishes and names your beneficiaries. Some more food for thought:

  • If you and your partner have been together since before same-sex marriage became legal nationwide in 2015, your estate plan may predate current laws. If so, it’s time to update it, especially if you’ve gotten married since the law changed.
  • If you were in a straight marriage in a previous life, you may be entitled to spousal social security benefits if the marriage lasted ten years or more. Your ex-spouse will not be notified of an inquiry to the Social Security Administration, nor do you need their social security number to apply.
  • Ask your estate attorney about revocable trusts, which cannot be contested by family members (sorry, Uncle Harry Homophobe). In addition, discuss living wills and financial power of attorney.
  • It’s easy to overlook an ex-partner listed as a beneficiary on something. Double-check all documents such as retirement accounts and life insurance policies to make sure they’re up to date.

Make sure your wishes are heard: Healthcare power of attorney and advance directives

A healthcare power of attorney lets you name an individual to carry out your medical wishes if you become unable to do so. An advance directive explicitly spells out your wishes for medical care, healthcare proxy, funeral instructions, and hospital visitation privileges. Talk to your attorney about these documents. This is especially important if the people whom you want to carry out your wishes are not related to you.

To learn more about estate planning and health and financial matters, click on the links below.*

Forbes Financial Planning List for LGBTQ+

CNBC: How LGBTQ+ Seniors Can Tackle Caregiving Challenges

The Legal Documents Every LGBTQ+ Older Adult Needs

Financial planning: Find someone who’s on your side

Prejudice and discrimination have historically made it difficult for the LGBTQ+ community to accumulate wealth. That’s why it’s important to work with a financial advisor who has your best interests at heart. If you don’t have a financial planner or are unhappy with the one you do have, it’s time to go shopping. A quick internet search for “gay financial planners” will turn up a long list of LGBTQ+-friendly financial planning firms. Be sure to interview each firm before hiring one, and don’t be shy about asking them pointedly about their history with LGBTQ+ clients. Here is an article with useful info on the subject:

Investopedia: How to Find an LGBTQ+-Friendly Financial Planner

Stay connected

LGBTQ+ seniors are twice as likely to live alone as other seniors and are less likely to have a spouse or adult children. Isolation can impact your physical and mental health, safety, and well-being. What’s more, many LGBTQ+ seniors have experienced discrimination in employment, insurance benefits, and healthcare services (especially people who are transgender, and people of color), which also impacts overall health and quality of life and leads to further isolation. But loneliness doesn’t have to be a way of life.

Reach out

Whether your family is the one you were born with or the family you have chosen and created, it’s important to stay connected with people who love you. Make it a habit to reach out regularly, either by phone or (preferably) in person. Having a small group of people that you consider family can make you feel connected and supported. So, put in the work it takes to maintain your relationships.

Build a community

If you’re like many seniors, your family/friend circle may have diminished over the years. But it’s never too late to build a new community of support and friendship. There are a large number of LGBTQ+ organizations and groups that you can connect with in the Portland metro area, either online, by phone, or in person. It takes time, effort, and a dose of courage to jump into new things, but the rewards can be great. Below are just a few of the many resources available:

Senior LGBTQ+ resources

LGBTQ+ crisis and support resources

AARP LGBTQ+ community

Friendly House Elder Pride

National Resource Center on LGBTQ+ Aging

Q Center Affinity and Support Groups

Gay PDX, Portland’s Gay Directory

PFLAG.org, Keeping LGBTQ+ Folks Strong

PDX Lesbian Network Facebook Group

LGBTQ Portland Facebook Group

Portland LGBTQ Events Facebook Group

Friendly House Elder Pride Facebook Group

Portland Meetup Groups

Portland Prime Timers, a Social Group for Senior Gay, Bi and Trans Men

Living the lifestyle you want

Are you thinking of moving to a senior living community? As you look for safe, inclusive housing, choose carefully. Unfortunately, discrimination is alive and well in some retirement communities, and it’s hard to know from the outside which ones are problematic. Finding housing is particularly difficult for older transgender and nonbinary people and LGBTQ+ people of color. In Washington and Oregon, the LGBTQ+ community is protected by law from housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity—but it still happens. Additionally, it can be difficult to find compassionate, safe assisted living options and empathetic care providers if the need arises.

When you tour a senior living community, ask direct questions about inclusivity, LGBTQ+ support and events, participation in Pride month, and whatever else you want to know. If they’re uncomfortable or give vague answers, be wary. If you have friends in senior communities, ask them about the vibe.

Below are links to housing providers that have committed to acceptance and diversity. But our best advice is to interview every housing director thoroughly and trust your gut. You’ll know when you’re truly being welcomed as your authentic self. You don’t need to go back into the closet!

LGBTQ+-Designated Housing

Elder Pride Housing Services

Memory Care Options

Rainbow Vista Senior Gay Retirement Community

The Opal Apartments, affordable, LGBTQ+-Friendly Living

What about all your fabulous stuff?

If you move, it will probably be to a smaller space. And you may face the same challenge that many in the LGBTQ+ community face: you have no kids to dump your excess stuff on. So how do you rightsize everything that won’t fit in your new place? Start by deciding what you want to keep, and what you want to let go. Ask friends if they want particular items. If not, you can donate clothing, furniture, and other household goods to the various charitable organizations listed below. Check websites for donation times and criteria.

Clothing donations:

Q Center Clothing Donations is an LGBTQ+ organization that accepts gently used career wear. They have paused clothing donations temporarily, but try again when you’re ready to clean out your closets.

Rose Haven accepts women’s clothing, donating it to women and marginalized genders experiencing homelessness.

Clothing, furniture and household items:

Community Warehouse is a local furniture bank that accepts furniture, blankets, pots and pans, general household goods, appliances, and other items to donate to people in need. They will do residential pickups for a reasonable fee.

The Salvation Army states that donations go to support people who need help regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or gender identity.

Goodwill Industries accepts clothing, furniture, household goods, books, electronics and more.

Free Geek accepts computers, cell phones, and other technology, safely wipes data, and refurbishes equipment, which then goes to people who can’t afford digital access.

Want to try selling your stuff?

PDX Estate Services conducts in-home estate sales (if you want to get rid of practically everything), and also consigns individual items through the PDX Estate Marketplace, its retail warehouse. The owner has great taste, so if you have unique artwork, cool furniture, or other funky vintage finds, give them a call.

A Clean Slate PDX is also a great resource for estate sales and consignment. Owner/operator, Juli Kirby, is a delight to work with and knows her stuff.

Facebook Marketplace is a good source for selling all kinds of items.

Buy Nothing is a Facebook group where you can post free items that your neighbors may want. The link is to the Portland-area group. If you’re outside the Portland area, search on Facebook for “Buy nothing near me,” or download the Buy Nothing app to find a group near you.

Need help to move on with your life? We’re here.

The process of rightsizing and moving can be overwhelming. (Look out, here comes our self-promotion!) Big Rocks Organizing is an LGBTQIA+ and woman-owned business serving the Portland and SW Washington metro area. We provide organizing, rightsizing/downsizing, estate clearouts, and move assistance. As LGBTQ+ community members and allies, we are non-judgmental, compassionate, and respectful. Whether you’re moving or just need to get organized, we would be honored to assist you.

For more on moving and rightsizing, check out some of our Big Rocks blog posts:

Rightsizing for Seniors

From Rightsize to Resale

Rightsizing our Post-Pandemic Lives

Sentimental Clutter: How to Let It Go

Move Like a Professional Organizer

Final thoughts

Navigating the LGBTQ+ aging process is not for the weak! A little self-care can go a long way toward improving your life:

  • Make healthy food choices (most of the time)
  • Challenge your mind—Wordle, anyone?
  • Take a class; you’re never too old to learn
  • Get exercise
  • Be a joiner, even if you’re an introvert
  • Get enough sleep
  • Find gender-affirming healthcare
  • Be kind to yourself!

Oh, and another thing

We are very excited to announce that we have just earned Certified LGBT Business Enterprise® status from the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). The NGLCC is the largest LGBT business advocacy organization in the world; we are proud to be a part of this important movement to foster diversity and inclusion in business.

*Big Rocks does not receive any compensation for any recommended services, nor do we use affiliate links.