On August 18th, over two hundred community members in Eugene, Oregon were in attendance for the film screening of Gen Silent—one of three events in a series specifically focused on issues facing LGBTQ seniors.
Increasingly, as the social climate of tolerance has slowly shifted, more LGBT people have come out and found acceptance. But that tolerance hasn’t always translated into positive changes in the support systems that all aging people need. Pride Foundation has partnered with AARP, PFLAG Eugene/Springfield, and Senior and Disabled Services to identify where these problems exist and what we can do to ensure our seniors are protected and cared for with the same dignity that all seniors deserve.
As we’ve seen reflected across the country, especially in larger urban centers like Portland, LGBTQ-specific service organizations for the aged, including Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders (SAGE), Gay & Lesbian Outreach to Elders, and Pride Senior Network play a critical role in our community. For over a decade Friendly House (previously known as Gay & Grey) has provided a range of services for LGBTQ older adults with a mission to enhance the lives of LGBTQ community members through education, advocacy, outreach, resource development, and case management. These types of programs, however, aren’t available in all parts of Oregon and cannot provide all the services needed. This is particularly true in rural areas where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer seniors face a number of particular concerns as they age.
We know that our seniors often don’t have access to adequate health care, affordable housing, or other social services that they need. We also know that the debates about changes to programs like Social Security and Medicare, which impact millions of LGBTQ elders, often take place without LGBTQ voices at the table.
Using the film, Gen Silent, we hope to raise visibility in communities that may not be familiar with the challenges LGBTQ elders face. The documentary follows the lives of six LGBTQ seniors living in the Boston area who must choose if they will hide their sexuality in order to survive in the long-term health care system. The title of the film references the generations of older LGBTQ people who remain in the closet or reenter the closet out of concern for their safety or quality of life.
While education and systemic change will take time, loved ones of LGBTQ seniors can make a difference today. This is where using your voice as a partner, spouse, son, a daughter, grandchild, or caregiver is critical. It is important to ask care providers and care facilities about their policies and practices relating to same-sex couples and LGBTQ clients. Asking the hard questions up front is vital so you can make the best and most caring choices.
As part of this series of events, there will be get-togethers for LGBTQ seniors and friends, including:
Legal and Financial Information—Get the Facts
Please joins a panelist of experts to answer legal questions on financial planning, wills, trusts, and equal rights.
Sunday, September 22 at 2:00 PM
Seniors, Teens, and In-betweens Workshop
A get-together for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people of all ages to share stories, insights, similarities, and differences across generations. Soromundi: Lesbian Chorus of Eugene leads this uplifting, interactive workshop.
Sunday, October 20 at 2:00 PM
All events are being held at the Campbell Center in Eugene, Oregon.
We hope these events will be the start of an ongoing conversation and movement toward action. We know we will have succeeded when each person who works with senior and disabled members of our community is culturally competent, accepting, and understand the importance of their role in caring for our communities elders. The ways in which we treat our elders is a clear window into the ways in which we treat one another as a community.
Jett is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Oregon. Email Jett.