Many of us never thought we would grow old as LGBTQ people.
It’s been six years since the first LGBT Elder Summit. In that time, a lot has changed in the aging-services landscape, particularly as it relates to increased awareness about LGBT older adults, said David Griffith, director of programs and outreach for the LGBT Elder Initiative.
Many organizations that serve older adults have started to make a greater effort to reach LGBTQ elders and to create spaces that are welcoming to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. But how would anyone know you’re a safe space if you don’t show and tell them?
For most of us, aging can present numerous challenges, including the ability to maintain good physical and emotional health. But for the nation’s LGBT older adults, growing older may also mean facing a different set of challenges, such as discrimination in health-care services and having to go back into the closet to remain safe.
The voices of LGBT older adults are being amplified with a new storytelling project.
If someone suggested you check out a senior center, what would you say? One response I typically hear is: “I don’t want to hang out with a bunch of old people.” In this case, I will try to convince you of the numerous social and health benefits of attending a center. However, if you are an older LGBT person, your response might be: “I don’t believe I will be treated respectfully.”
Much needs to be done to ensure older LGBT adults can age with dignity. Many older LGBT adults face health problems or live with chronic health conditions at a time when they are least equipped to endure discrimination and social stigma. Health-care and human-services providers need to be culturally competent to meet the needs of LGBT older adults and to create inclusive, welcoming services. Sexual-orientation and gender-identity (SOGI) data collection is one step providers can use to identify and meet the needs of LGBT consumers.
An open letter to the LGBT community:
If you don’t think “ally” when you think AARP, then you don’t know AARP.