Building Visibility and Community for LGBTQ Older Adults In Rural Areas

“In North Idaho, discrimination is alive and well,” says Juli Stratton, Executive Director of North Idaho Pride Alliance (NIPA) in Coeur D’Alene, a Pride Foundation Community Grantee.

“We hear people in North Idaho say, ’We don’t have any LGBTQ people here.’ But we know that statement is not true. That mentality is changing, in part I think, because of our work to create visibility for marginalized folks.”

NIPA is working to build a more unified Idaho through networking, education, and advocacy. With a focus on LGBTQ youth and older adults, they are creating spaces to build connections and raise awareness throughout the region.

LGBTQ older adults, particularly those living in rural areas, endure greater degrees of isolation and discrimination, often lacking strong family connections and the support of a broader care network. As a result, many are forced back into the closet when they interact with mainstream service organizations.

“This is an issue of end of life care,” Juli explains, “While aging isn’t just an LGBTQ issue, we face more obstacles as we age because of who we love or how we identify.”

Juli remembers friend of the Pride Alliance who was approaching the end of her life with no local familial support network. NIPA helped her to coordinate her calendar, scheduled food deliveries, and connected her with transportation to appointments and support groups. Thanks to NIPA’s network of volunteers and community members, this woman was able to live her last months supported and cared for.

Recently, NIPA has also been building relationships with local organizations, businesses, and service providers and is conducting trainings with these groups on how to better serve older LGBTQ clients. NIPA also created the Silver Alliance, a support group where LGBTQ adults over the age of 50 can socialize and share resources.

“It is incredibly important for LGBTQ older adults to have a space to come together. Participants have told us that these groups are a reason to get out of the house and engage with the world.”

Despite being a two-year-old, all-volunteer organization, NIPA has already made an incredible impact in the community, and this visibility raising and community building will undoubtedly continue into the future as they explore ways to make their work even more sustainable and effective.

“LGBTQ people are everywhere. We’re in every service delivery system and in all of your businesses. You just may not know that’s who we are. It’s about raising awareness of our existence in every part of the community and working to support those who need it.”

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