March 17th, 2010
06:37 PM ET

Report: Aging issues can be tougher on gays

Last Christmas, Missouri State Highway Patrol Corporal Dennis Engelhard was putting flares near a minor accident on a snowy road in Eureka when he was hit by a car and killed.

"I'd had a premonition about it," said Kelly Glossip, 43, Engelhard's domestic partner of 15 years. The openly gay couple had discussed what might happen if Engelhard were to die in Missouri, a state that does not recognize same-sex partnerships, he said.

"He had faith in the system and told me not to worry about it," Glossip told CNN in a telephone interview from his home in suburban St. Louis. But now Glossip - who works only part time in a billing office because of back problems and who supports his 17-year-old son - is worried and angry.

The state would have given a pension to the wife of any officer killed on the job, but has no such provision for domestic partners, Glossip said. "I'm basically on my own," he said.

Denny Meyer, 63, knows all about being on his own. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1968 to pay his country back for welcoming his parents, both Holocaust survivors, after World War II. He stayed 10 years and loved it, but remained in the closet until after he was discharged.

After a career in New York City, where he was open about his sexuality, "I started to get old," he told CNN in a telephone interview. "I'm an old 63 because of bad luck with cancer and this and that," he said. Living alone on a limited income, with no close relatives, he was accepted to live in a senior citizens' home in the borough of Queens but turned it down.

"I'm used to being out, so the idea of going into senior housing in a straight environment is horrifying," he said. "I knew that I would have to go completely back in the closet."

If aging is tough for everyone, it tends to be tougher for people who are gay, according to a report presented Wednesday at the annual conference of the National Council on Aging and the American Society on Aging in Chicago, Illinois.

According to the report, "Improving the Lives of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Older Adults," issues that disproportionately affect LGBT older adults include stigma, isolation and unequal treatment. Together, they translate into their being poorer, sicker, and having fewer opportunities for social and community engagement than do their heterosexual peers, according to the report.

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