Gettin' On

Gettin’ On examines topics of interest and importance to all members of the LGBT communities as we age. LGBT older adults have faced lifetimes of discrimination, stigmatization, marginalization, and criminalization. As a result, we face unique issues and challenges to aging successfully. Gettin’ On focuses on those issues and highlights resources and solutions that will help all members of the communities to age successfully at every age.


Most people have some familiarity with the concept of the “Jedi Master” popularized in the Star Wars movies. If you’re not a fan of the films, the idea is that of a guru who possesses infinite wisdom gained through years of experience surviving in the universe. What if we could have that kind of “mastery,” or at least something similar, as we age?

Many LGBT older adults are faced with negotiating multiple healthcare providers, managing challenges related to physical health, loss of loved ones, and many may experience what feels like a loss of control. In a 2016 research review conducted by the Williams Institute, researchers found that LGBT older adults experienced high risks of mental health issues, disability, and higher rates of disease and physical limitation than their heterosexual counterparts. For LGBT older adults, there is no playbook for how to be successful and “master” later life — until now.

Since the early 1980s, the messaging within our communities in relation to HIV has been focused on surviving. In the earlier days of the AIDS crisis, avoiding and/or surviving the plague needed to be the focus.

For many, it worked. People took control of their health. Armed with the standard of care put out by ACT-UP Philadelphia, LGBT Philadelphians went to their appointments with their doctors equipped with the best information available at that time to hopefully survive.

It is often thought older adults have little knowledge of, or interest, in technology and the internet. In a generation that did not grow up with smartphones or computers, many elders express some hesitation about relying on technology. Yet, as the baby-boom generation ages, an increasing number of older adults are actively utilizing technology to reduce isolation, manage health conditions and connect with vital information.

One may have noticed recently an abundance of ads from TV to billboards for Medicare Advantage plans. This signals that Medicare Open Enrollment is upon us. From Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, all Medicare beneficiaries have the opportunity to decide which type of healthcare coverage they want for 2019. For many, this can be a daunting task given that there are more than 25 (yes, 25!) Medicare Advantage (MA) plans and prescription-drug plans to choose from in Philadelphia alone. But having some information and knowing where to get help can make this process a little easier to handle.

Abuse against older adults is a public-health issue that impacts seniors, their families and communities across the United States. The size of the older-adult population is expected to nearly double in the next 30 years. These demographic shifts mean that the number of people potentially affected by elder abuse is ever-growing.

Norma Tramel was confined to the isolation and stigmatization of life in a nursing home for four years after suffering a ruptured hernia that put her in a coma. Once she regained her health, she began to yearn for the freedom that was taken away from her.

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