SACRAMENTO – AB 2719, authored by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D- Thousand Oaks), was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown last week. This new law adds sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to the definition of elderly communities to be given priority consideration for programs and services administered through the California Department of Aging.
“I’m incredibly thankful to the Governor for signing this bill into law,” said Assemblymember Irwin. “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Californians will now have certainty that the State will continue to take into account their unique circumstances as they age, and our current elderly LGBTQ population will continue to benefit from having priority in the planning and implementation of programs they need to age with dignity.”
The federal Older Americans Act, enacted in 1965, funds various services for older adults including meals, job training, senior centers, caregiver support, transportation, health promotion, and benefits enrollment. In California, the Mello-Granlund Older Californians Act, matches those funds and through the California Department of Aging provides a framework for their operation throughout the state.
It is estimated that there will be roughly 10.9 million adults in California over the age of 60 by 2030. While it is difficult to provide an accurate count of LGBTQ individuals, some studies approximate that roughly 5-10% of the U.S. population identifies as LGBTQ. This would mean there are currently 380,000-760,000 older LGBTQ individuals in California, with that number expected to double by 2030.
“It’s incredibly important that we ensure LGBTQ older adults have access to the services and support they need to maintain their health and live their lives with dignity,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. “We’re deeply grateful to Governor Brown for signing AB 2719 and to Assemblymember Irwin for being such a strong champion for our LGBTQ elders.”
Historically and even today, LGBTQ individuals may face employment discrimination that can contribute to their risk of economic insecurity and lack of adequate health care. This combined with other forms of discrimination, which can lead to social isolation and various other health challenges as one ages, emphasize the need for services provided by the California Department of Aging.
“We commend Governor Brown and the state of California for taking this important step forward on behalf of LGBT older people,” said SAGE CEO Michael Adams. “LGBT elders experience high rates of social isolation and poverty as well as thin support networks, and heavily rely on home and community-based services in their later years. Just like all other older people, we must ensure they have access to welcoming services in their communities. We hope that Congress follows California’s lead when it reauthorizes the Older Americans Act in 2019.”
This bill passed unanimously through both chambers of the legislature earlier this year.