Researchers say recent health surveys show an alarmingly high number of senior gays would rather commit suicide than risk abuse from a ''prudish and conservative'' aged health-care system.
A recent report by Alzheimer's Australia estimates more than 37,200 gay men and lesbians will be affected by dementia over the next 20 years, but aged-care policies fail to recognize their specific health, social, legal and financial needs.
It said gay seniors feared health workers ''will judge them, pity them, avoid physical contact, harass them, treat them as an object of curiosity, betray confidences, provide poor quality services or reject them''.
Launching the recent Alzheimer's Australia report, Justice Michael Kirby said that many of these special needs ''may be traced to the much higher levels of loneliness suffered by sexual minorities''.
Several examples of harassment of gay seniors by health-care staff are detailed in submissions to the Senate Community Affairs Committee's inquiry into suicide in Australia. These include the director of a day-care center ordering a gay senior to ''wear latex gloves at all times or leave'', in the mistaken belief he was an AIDS risk.