Friday, March 30, 2012

LGBT Elders Face Unique Challenges

From PCA's Milestones e-news

This week marks the 9th annual National LGBT Health Awareness Week dedicated to promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) health.

The theme for this year’s LGBT Health Awareness Week, “Come Out for Health,” seeks to encourage healthcare providers, policy makers, and LGBT people to talk openly about the challenges that LGBT people face, and to promote health and access to health care. Lack of openness about sexuality is a barrier to discussions about sexual health, risk of breast or prostate cancer, hepatitis, HIV risk, hormone therapy or other risk factors.   

Recent studies show that the health status of LGBT elders is of particular concern. The number of LGBT Americans who have reached age 65 is greater than ever before, yet services for these seniors are lacking.

They also encounter significant barriers to successful aging, including social isolation, unequal treatment under the law and diminished economic security, according to research sponsored by the National Academy on an Aging Society and SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian Bisexual & Transgender Elders). 
These barriers are associated with poor mental and physical health, cognitive impairment, chronic illness and premature death. 

“The health disparities reflect the historical and social context of their lives, and the serious adversity they have encountered can jeopardize their health and willingness to seek services in old age,” said Karen Fredriksen-Goldsen, Ph.D., a University of Washington researcher.

In a groundbreaking national health survey of 2500 LGBT adults age 50-95, Fredriksen-Goldsen and fellow researchers found that 21% of respondents had not told their doctors about their sexual orientation or gender identity out of fear of receiving inferior health care or being turned away for services.  

In addition to this finding, the survey report, “The Aging and Health Report: Disparities and Resilience among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Older Adults,” outlines challenges they face, including fear of discrimination and often the lack of children to help them. There was some good news from the survey, in that more than ninety percent reported participating in wellness activities, such as meditation and regular exercise. 
Among the key findings:
  • Participants were more likely to live alone and less likely to be partnered or married than heterosexuals, which may result in less social support and financial security
  • Victimization and discrimination can contribute to poor health; nearly half of the respondents have a disability and nearly one-third report depression 
  • Twenty-one percent of respondents said they were fired from a job because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.    
  • Nearly four out of 10 had considered suicide. 

LGBT Health Awareness Week is an opportunity for LGBT people to educate providers, community leaders, policy makers, and allied organizations about issues of particular concern to the LGBT community, including mental health, sexual health, substance use, heart health, fitness, safety, and domestic violence.  
Locally, the LGBT Elder Initiative (LGBTEI) is committed to assuring that LGBT older adults have rights and opportunities to live vibrant, creative and mutually supportive lives.  The LGBTEI advocates for services and resources that are culturally competent, inclusive and responsive to the needs of LGBT elders in the Delaware Valley.  For more information about the LGBTEI’s services and other local resources and information click here
Other resources for LGBT health include: the Mazzoni Center; ActionAIDS; The Maunter Project; andFORGE. 
Terri Clark, M.P.H., C.H.E.S., is the co-chair of the LGBT Elder Initiative and is prevention services coordinator at ActionAIDS.

Friday, March 16, 2012


byTerri Clark, MPH, CHES
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“Old age is not for sissies,” said Bette Davis. If that is the case, and many believe it to be, then aging bisexuals are truly courageous.

Bisexuals (young and old) have been underrepresented in research, media and the arts. For the most part, we are merged into the discussions of gay and lesbian aging. Issues confronting older lesbians and gay men do overlap with the experiences of older people who are bisexual, but only partially. Our aging services and community providers have bisexuals accessing services even if they don’t realize it.

Bisexuals exist both as seniors and as caregivers of elderly parents: They also function as spouses, partners, parents, siblings, daughters and sons in their biological and logical families.

Of significant importance is that bisexuals are rarely seen, and there is little to no room for bisexuality within the older generation. When a bisexual falls in love, he or she sometimes begins to identify (publicly or privately) as lesbian, gay or hetero and thus becomes invisible as a bisexual aging person. For example, a woman with a male partner is presumed to be straight; if with a female partner, assumed to be lesbian; a woman or man alone, probably heterosexual. If she or he is in a “gay venue,” they are probably presumed to be gay, rather than bisexual. What behaviors would I, as an aging bisexual, have to engage in for other people to see me as bisexual? Should I walk into the room with a man and a woman on each arm? Should I have multiple partners? Maybe I could leave one partner for one of a different gender? (Interestingly, in this scenario people still might not read me as bisexual, but rather as having finally “finished” coming out or “gone straight.” Or, as in my case, “having gone to the other side.”)

Read more:PGN-The Philadelphia Gay News. Phila gay news. philly news - Being bisexual

Thursday, March 1, 2012

NYTimes: SAGE Center Opens in NYC

February 29, 2012, 5:27 PM

Older Gay Men and Lesbians Get a Drop-In Center of Their Own

  • David W. Dunlap/The New York Times
  • David W. Dunlap/The New York Times
  • David W. Dunlap/The New York Times
  • David W. Dunlap/The New York Times
  • David W. Dunlap/The New York Times
  • David W. Dunlap/The New York Times
  • David W. Dunlap/The New York Times
Clyde J. Robertson, 82, after dinner in the SAGE Center at Seventh Avenue and 27th Street.
Day was ending. The small businesses scattered through the borderland between the garment district and Chelsea were turning out their lights. But the 15th floor of 305 Seventh Avenue, at 27th Street, was ablaze. Inside, a $2 meal of grilled chicken, brown rice and vegetables was being served to a few dozen diners ranging from their 60s to their 80s.
Clyde J. Robertson, 82, was recalling one of the gladdest memories of his youth: surviving the crawl under live machine-gun fire during basic training, on his way to Korea. “I was very proud of myself,” he said, “because I was considered a sissy back home.”
How the city looks and feels — and why it got that way.
Mr. Robertson was dining at the SAGE Center, run by the nonprofit group SAGE(Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders), which believes this drop-in center to be the first of its kind in the nation. It is to open officially on Thursday, but dinners were served throughout February, Mondays through Fridays, as a preparatory exercise.
It’s not that there aren’t plenty of senior centers already. And it’s not that there isn’t a lesbian and gay community center. (You can almost see it, 14 blocks south, from the windows of the SAGE Center.)
DESCRIPTIONThe New York TimesMichael Adams
But for SAGE’s clients, about 2,000 a month in New York, it can be “extremely hard to find a space that feels like home,” said Michael Adams, the executive director of SAGE. In existing senior centers, they may feel stigmatized, however subtly. At the Center, on 13th Street, where SAGE continues to offer programs, they may sometimes feel out of place among so many younger women and men. “It’s not about creating a parallel universe,” Mr. Adams said, “but everyone needs a home.”
Because it’s tougher every day to conduct personal business without knowledge of and access to the Internet and e-mail, the center on Seventh Avenue has a computer training room with 15 terminals. An audio induction loop has been built into the main hall, where meals are served, to assist those with hearing aids. The center also has a medical examination room where a nurse will be on duty. Mr. Adams said nearly one-fifth of SAGE’s clients are living with H.I.V. or AIDS, a situation that could not have been imagined 20 years ago. There is concern about the interaction of H.I.V. medications with the battery of drugs that older people take.
DESCRIPTIONDavid W. Dunlap/The New York TimesThe computer training room.
To justify the capital expense of an induction loop and a special ventilating system for the exam room — and to ensure that the SAGE Center would stay rooted — the organization bought the space. That was possible at 305 Seventh Avenue, where SAGE already has its headquarters, because it is a commercial condominium. The 15th floor, with 8,200 square feet, cost $2.7 million, Mr. Adams said. The renovation cost $1.8 million. Financing came principally from New York City, the Calamus Foundation and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. The architect was Eric R. Cohen of Ethelind Coblin Architect.
Each weeknight, as many as 130 meals can be served. Those over 60 are asked to pay $2. Those under 60 are charged $4. It costs SAGE as much as $4.50 to put each meal on the table, said Catherine Thurston, the senior director for programs, including $3.45 to the caterer, Healthy Heart Food Service. The city’s Department for the Aging reimburses SAGE $3.50 a meal.
When it came time to decide which daily meal would be served at the center, SAGE clients voted for dinner. Many are busy during the day and alone at night. Mr. Robertson, formerly the head cashier at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, offers a cat-sitting service under the name l’Ami des Chats. He said he patronizes a neighborhood senior center on Washington Square North, where he can have lunch and where he learned how to send e-mail. “But we have to be out by 5,” he said. The SAGE Center is open from 1 to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday.
A 61-year-old diner from Flatbush, Brooklyn, who asked not to be identified, said the center had already achieved its goal, even before opening. “People come here,” he said, “and know they can be themselves more fully and more quickly.”