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.

With the many needs facing LGBT older adults today, it is essential that individuals responsible for crafting laws and policies are doing so in response to feedback from our communities. It is especially important that lawmakers are listening to the community members who would be most impacted by a change in law or policy, especially those who are otherwise marginalized by the current system. It is incumbent upon us, as community members and advocates, to communicate our needs and concerns to these policymakers to make sure that their proposals will effectively address the disparities that impact our LGBT communities. 


The 50th anniversary of Stonewall this year stands to remind the LGBTQ community of the valiant fight for rights that many of us take for granted today. As an elder in the LGBT community — at the young age of 53 — I worry about what’s happening to those in our community who led the fight: Ageism.

Stigmas surround many health conditions that may prevent individuals from seeking care, even when they are experiencing severe symptoms. These delays in seeking care can prevent a timely diagnosis and essential medical interventions. Alzheimer’s and related dementias remain some of the more stigmatized diseases in our society, with great fear of the impact that dementia has on the brain and an individual’s daily functioning.

Most of us hope we will never have to make the decision to place a loved one in a nursing home. Yet, many of us will be faced with this challenging task. Turning the care of our parents, grandparents or partners over to strangers is a decision fraught with guilt, anxiety and hope that a facility’s caregivers will provide high-quality care for a short period of time or the rest of someone’s life.

Just like in “The Wizard of Oz,” when my partner Suz and I arrived in Philly, we landed hard. We definitely weren’t in Kansas anymore (make that Camden, actually). We had been compelled to pack up and move in a hurry. We were in financial peril. Suz was slowly recovering from recent cancer surgery and treatment, and I had to quit my job as a musician because I had learned the hard way that harp playing can trigger heart attacks (who knew?).

Warm days and long periods of sunlight can be great for spending time outdoors, relaxing, vacationing and socializing with friends and neighbors, offering plenty of reasons to enjoy summer weather.

With the chaos in Washington and a new presidential election starting to take shape, we hear a lot about different social issues and policy proposals. One that has not received much attention, despite its significance and current relevance, is the Older Americans Act and the provision of services to older adults across the country. The next few months are of great importance to the Older Americans Act as its current authorization is set to expire in the fall.

Getting older can certainly be a challenging experience with physical limitations, losses, and changes in accustomed routines. Added to this can be a fear of the unknown, loneliness, and a sense of isolation. These issues can be particularly difficult for LGBT older adults who live by themselves and are not as active physically as they once were.

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.

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