Agencies welcome recommendations to improve LGBT seniors’ quality of life
Advocates and service providers across Southern California and Nevada have applauded new recommendations designed to improve LGBT seniors’ quality of life.
Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders and the Movement Advancement Project announced the recommendations as part of a report it unveiled at the National Council on Aging and the American Society on Aging’s annual conference in Chicago on Wednesday, March 17. They urge an increase in funding of LGBT senior-specific programs, access to volunteer caregivers who provide immediate care and the creation of additional educational, legal and general services.
David Kimball, assistant director of the Golden Rainbow Senior Center in Palm Springs, Calif., welcomed the groups’ recommendations.
"Everything mentioned in the report rings true for us," he said.
Golden Rainbow offers HIV testing, counseling, Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, computer classes, self-defense courses, support groups and a variety of social activities to LGBT seniors who live in the Coachella Valley. Kimball said reducing social isolation and internalized homophobia are among his organization’s primary goals.
"Our programming really plugs into the new report," he said. "It’s precisely our experience here."
The Los Angeles-based Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing operates Triangle Square in Hollywood. The complex, which opened in 2007, contains 104 units of affordable housing for low income seniors. Thirty-four percent of the facility’s apartments go to those with HIV/AIDS or who are either homeless or at-risk of homeless.
Mark Supper, executive director of the GLEH, told EDGE the SAGE and MAP report provided an accurate assessment of the problems many of his residents continue to confront.
"We’re really focusing on the lower income LGBT elders; and they did a really good job looking at that," he said.
The report also highlighted LGBT elders don’t receive equal Social Security benefits and face a lack of retirement benefits and spousal impoverishment protections.
The Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the AIDS Community Action Foundation have organized a protest in Los Angeles on April 11 to highlight this denial of benefits. Lorri L. Jean, chief executive officer of the Center, said this discrimination costs LGBT seniors $124 million each year.
"Virtually all workers pay into the Social Security system," she said. "In retirement, that money is supposed to take care of us and, after we die, our partners-if they make less than we do. Yet, while those of us in same-sex relationships pay into Social Security just like everyone else, we are denied the same protections-even when we are legally married."
The U.S. Census reported California had the highest number of residents 65 or older as of July 1, 2008, with 4.1 million people; 34 percent of the population of La Paz County, Ariz., was 65 and older. And more than an estimated 11 percent Nevadans were 65 or older.
Candice Nichols, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, told EDGE her organization plans to expand the services it already offers to LGBT seniors in order to accommodate increased demand. These include additional fitness programs, dance and art classes, the creation of a book club and day trips.
The recession impacted GLEH’s ability to move forward with plans to open a second facility, but Kimball said changing attitudes around aging and a more openness to discuss sexuality-related issues have brought these issues into the forefront of the movement’s agenda.
"That makes a more open dialogue on these topics possible," he said. "We’re gaining more traction on these issues."