Difficult decisions await everyone as we age, but too often elderly gay folks largely dependent on others find their golden years to be their most troubling.

“They're not ready for us,” Amber Hollibaugh, a senior strategist for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, told 365gay.com last year.

Agencies dealing with the problem of an aging gay population say it's rapidly increasing.

“The number of seniors could become a kind of crisis like the HIV epidemic in the next five to ten years, and there is no structure to deal with it,” Hollibaugh said.

Activists worry not only about access to benefits from programs like Social Security and Medicaid but also about discrimination and even open hostility.

In a recent survey conducted last year by Community Marketing, Inc., titled Gay and Graying: Concerns for the Future, 19% of respondents said they feared medical personnel would not treat them with dignity and respect.

Seniors' lives are heavily impacted by the delivery of healthcare. But the pillars of that care too often ignore the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Access to many of those benefits are closely intertwined with marriage, a right denied to gay men and lesbians in 48 states and by the federal government.

“Marriage is a senior issue,” David Aronstein, founder and president of Stonewall Communities (sites.stonewallcommunities.org/www), told OUTTAKEOnline.com CEO Charlotte Robinson in an exclusive talk posted at her website.

“[S]o many of the benefits that accrue to older people are based on marital status. I think the overturning of DOMA – the Defense of Marriage Act – is going to be very important particularly for lower income seniors in the LGBT community because it prevents spending federal money [for programs like Medicaid].”

Aronstein's organization is facing these problems head on. The group advocates on behalf of gay men and lesbians in their golden years, and envisions building a network of LGBT facilities for seniors in the six state New England region. Their first project, to be located in greater Boston, has been paused due to the sour economy.

“We own a property now outside of Kenmore Square in Boston, which is a great location, and are permitted to build a 53 unit residential community that will be a co-operative that will have fully furnished apartments and then on the ground floor there'll be a dinning room, a wellness center, a lounge and study area,” Aronstein said.

In the meantime, Aronstein says his group is focused on developing a LGBT lifelong learning center and gay senior outreach programs.

On the Net: More of this interview can be found at voices.OUTTAKEOnline.com.