If you can actually remember where you were when the Stonewall Riots happened (June 27-28, 1969), you might be what some consider to be an older adult” Not necessarily an elder or a senior, you are somewhere in the years of life where you remember things that happened in the 60s, 70s, and 80s—not just because you read about them in a book, but because you were alive and kicking during those times.

You’re probably thinking: if I do remember where I was then, am I really an older adult? Well, the term is loose. SAGE (Services and Programs for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, & Transgender Elders) defines older adults as those in the range of 45-75.

Why does this matter? As with any stage in life, your support, health, and life needs are changing as you get into those “older adult” years.

But, for LGBT individuals, the older adult years can be difficult. For most of us, growing older in America means we have access to a variety of support services and programs, including Meals on Wheels, legal aid services and low-income senior housing. Unfortunately, for those of us who are LGBT older adults, research shows we’re less likely to access these services. In fact, in The Aging and Health Report by The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, only 28 percent of LGBT respondents used any services or programs geared toward older adults. The largest barrier: fear of discrimination and abuse.

In a recent national survey of LGBT older adults in long-term care facilities, SAGE found that about only 1 in 5 respondents felt they could be open about their sexual orientation or gender identities with facility staff, 89 percent predicted that staff would discriminate based on their sexual orientations and/or gender identities, and 43 percent reported instances of mistreatment.

The problem isn’t necessarily that services, programs or staff are necessarily discriminatory. In most cases it’s simply a matter of misconception and lack of education. So, organizations like SAGE and The LGBT Health Resource Center of Chase Brexton are taking on the great task of LGBT cultural competency training for staff of organizations that provide services and programs to older adults. With time, training, ongoing research, and evaluations to ensure LGBT equity through all stages and phases of life, we can only hope our successors won’t have another Stonewall to remember in the decades to come.

And, speaking of Stonewall: for those of us who remember where we were then, for those who would like to know more about Stonewall, and for those who would simply enjoy a time to get to know more members of our communities, come to a brunch and screening of the film Before Stonewall. The event is free and is being held at Chase Brexton Health Care at Mt. Vernon, located at 1111 N. Charles Street on June 27 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Register and find out more at tinyurl.com/stonewallbrunch or call 410-837-2050 ext. 1216.

For more on LGBT aging, visit SAGEusa.org.

Gay Life June 2015

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