Community Update – Summer 2012
While President Obama was evolving to a position affirming same-sex marriage and the Supreme Court was deciding the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the LGBT Elder Initiative (LGBTEI) was making significant progress toward adopting a formal organizational structure. Following the strategic planning Working Group meeting in February, the Organizational Structure & Development Committee (OSD) continued its work by considering several structural options.
In April, the OSD unanimously determined that the optimal structure was to remain a stand-alone organization, purchasing financial, human resource, information technology and other resources as needed from an umbrella organization. Following that decision, the OSD interviewed potential umbrella organizations and the Committee will now meet and select the umbrella organization. Contract negotiations will begin as soon as the OSD makes its final decision.
The Access Committee has completed its research for the inaugural version of the LGBTEI’s Senior Resource Guide for Housing. The Guide, which is currently available at www.lgbtei.org/p/housing, will be formally unveiled in September with a media campaign to raise awareness about the Guide. A print version will also be made available, pending a grant to cover printing and distribution expenses. The next segment of the Guide, LGBT senior-friendly healthcare providers, is now in development.
The Access Committee has completed the pilot phase of the LGBT elder cultural sensitivity training module. Special thanks to the area agencies on aging for their support and assistance in helping to test this training module.
The EI is currently scheduling training workshops for interested organizations. Please contact Terri Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org for details about scheduling trainings for your staff, members or residents.
The Policy Committees produced documents in support of the reauthorization of the Older American Act (OAA) with language specifying LGBT seniors as a population of “greatest social need.” If passed with this language, the OAA will help assure that LGBT older adults are targets of outreach efforts by government-funded aging service organizations, leading to greater access to the services that LGBT elders need in order to age successfully.
Members of the LGBT Elder Initiative gave testimony before a PA Department of Aging panel and Secretary of Aging, Brian Duke, advocating for inclusion of LGBT older Pennsylvanians and people living with HIV/AIDS in the PA State Plan on Aging 2012 – 2016. Complete information about the coalition of LGBT, Aging and HIV/AIDS organizations that participated in this effort, as well as the testimony of advocates, is posted on our website.
In addition to producing regular media articles about the unique needs and issues facing LGBT elders, the Communications Committee has been maximizing the EI’s visibility on the web. Please follow us on Twitter @LGBTEI, “like” us on Facebook and subscribe to the LGBTEI’s web page at www.lgbtei.org.
Of particular note are generous grants of five thousand dollars each from the dmhFund and philanthropist, Mel Heifetz. These grants, along with other significant contributions from community members, enabled the LGBTEI to begin development of the new website. This new design will help us provide more, comprehensive information and outreach services to consumers and service providers.
The EI took additional steps to increase our visibility in the community. At the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference, which was held at the Philadelphia Convention Center and attended by over 2,400 people, the EI facilitated a workshop on aging issues and distributed brochures and information to conference attendees. The EI also distributed information at Philadelphia’s Gay Pride celebration at Penn’s Landing. Both of these outreach efforts were made in collaboration with some of the LGBT and Aging organizations who are part of the LGBT Elder Initiative’s Working Group.
Seminars, Workshops & Forums
The LGBTEI, in collaboration with other community organizations, is leading the effort to provide information and services to LGBT elders. On September 18, National HIV/AID and Aging Awareness Day, a Community Forum will address issues of critical importance to people living with HIV/AIDS, including new medications and the long term impact of the infection and treatment. Later this fall, a workshop and legal clinic will provide LGBT elders with the opportunity to complete wills, living wills and powers-of-attorney. Next spring, another Community Forum, “The Aging Mind,” will focus on issues including Alzheimer’s, dementia, HIV-related dementia, memory loss, and caregiver issues. An ongoing Caregiver Support Group is one of the goals of this Forum.
Not Just a Footnote
Finally, just a note to say thank you to all of the people who have supported the EI in so many different ways, whether serving on committees, contributing to media articles, presenting at conferences, or providing financial or in-kind contributions for the EI’s efforts to support and sustain the lives of LGBT older adults through access, advocacy, education, information and referral.
Someone You MUST Know: Terri Clark & Heshie Zinman
Terri Clark (pictured at left), a native of Buffalo, NY, holds a Masters in Public Health from Hunter College in New York City. Terri is a certified health education specialist and an advocate for gender and sexual health equality. She relocated from New York to Philadelphia five years ago and is now the prevention services coordinator for ActionAIDS. Terri also teaches public/community health on the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Heshie Zinman (below, right), a native of Philadelphia, holds a Masters in Business Administration from St. Joseph’s University and has been a passionate community health activist for nearly three decades. Heshie is the founder of the AIDS Library of Philadelphia and served as the executive director of the AIDS Information Network for over ten years. He helped found, or has served on the Board of, organizations including ActionAIDS, Mazzoni Center, The Delaware Valley Legacy Fund, and SafeGuards.
10,000 Couples: Tell us about the background of the LGBT Elder Initiative and what brought the two of you together in this effort.
HZ: In early 2010, a group of volunteer community activists conducted a survey of LGBT seniors in the Delaware Valley. That survey told us that there was a specific and urgent need to address the unique issues facing LGBT people as we age. The survey results showed that the most important needs of LGBT elders were physical and emotional health care, housing, social networking, and social services/case management.
As a result of that survey, we convened a conference on LGBT aging issues that brought together the aging services community, the LGBT services community, and consumers. That conference was held in October 2010 in Philadelphia. It was at that conference that Terri and I first met and began working together on these issues.
TC: The outcome of the conference was the creation of the LGBT Elder Initiative and a “Working Group” of representatives from aging and LGBT service organizations, government, and consumers. The Working Group was charged with the responsibility of implementing the recommendations that were made at the conference.
As our first order of business, the Working Group outlined the mission of the LGBTEI. That mission, in essence, is to support and sustain the lives of LGBT older adults in the Delaware Valley and beyond. Heshie and I were selected as co-chairs of the organization.
The LGBTEI's mission is to support and sustain the lives of LGBT older adults in the Delaware Valley and beyond.
10,000 Couples: What do you see as the most pressing need(s) among LGBT seniors at present and looking forward?
HZ: The survey outlined the five prioritized areas of concern for LGBT elders that I mentioned earlier. However, every day in our work with the LGBTEI, Terri and I see more and more need for advocacy for critical issues facing our communities, better access to services, and more services that are LGBT and aging safe, sensitive, and welcoming.
10,000 Couples: How does the LGBTEI seek to meet those need(s)? What activities/actions does the LGBTEI do?
HZ: The Elder Initiative recently received a grant from The Philadelphia Foundation that is enabling us to conduct a formal strategic planning process. We have designed this process to make sure that our organizational structure and the programs and services that we offer are consistent with the needs of the community. Terri often says, “We are going to get it right, from the beginning.”
TC: During this planning process that Heshie just described, our committees are continuing their programmatic work. Early on, we identified a critical need to provide LGBT and aging cultural sensitivity training. In collaboration with area agencies on aging, we are test-piloting training modules that we will provide to service organizations, healthcare providers, corporations, and any other interested parties in order to begin the process of making sure that the resources that LGBT seniors need are safe and welcoming. Obviously, there is a huge amount of work to be done in this area, but we feel that our training services offer at least a starting point in southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and the state of Delaware.
Information You Need to Know
LGBT elders have lived through a lifetime of discrimination, including years when homosexuality was criminalized and labeled a mental disorder, and overt discrimination was encouraged.
A lifetime of discrimination, resultant stress, culturally and linguistically incompetent healthcare and aging care, and other socio-economic factors contribute to health and economic disparities. These factors have also raised obstacles to accessing and utilizing necessary health and social support services for LGBT elders.
Key challenges facing LGBT elders are:
The effects of social stigma and prejudice, past and present;
Unequal treatment under laws, programs, and services.
Reliance on informal “families of choice” for social connections, care and support.
(courtesy of www.LGBTEI.org)
For consumers and service providers alike, the EI is developing the LGBTEI Senior Resource Guidethat will include LGBT senior-friendly housing resources, heathcare providers, legal services, and transportation resources, to name a few. We are very excited about a series of “Successful Aging Seminars” that we are launching that will provide information to community members about the issues that they have identified as being important. Topics for these seminars include “The Affordable Care Act,” “Legal Paperwork & Estate Planning,” “HIV & Aging,” and “The Aging Mind.”
HZ: We have also launched a social media campaign to create awareness of the needs of the LGBT elder community among service providers. Our social media efforts also provide consumers with information that they can use to learn about the resources and services available to them in the community. The campaign really symbolizes our entire effort in trying to build bridges between LGBT and aging service organizations and between consumers and those services.
10,000 Couples: Do you know of other organizations in other regions doing the same sort of work? What would you say to someone who wanted to start such an organization for their own region?
TC: Fortunately, there are many organizations growing across the country that are trying to meet the needs of the aging LGBT population. Last year was the first year that baby boomers started turning 65, and that trend is only going to increase over the next 20 years. The growth of the community will far outpace the growth of services, so it is important that all of these organizations grow. The bottom line is that where people see a need, they should organize to try and meet those needs.
HZ: The LGBT community now has a long history of community activism and organization. We have a clear record of taking care of our own. Assuring that we all age successfully is only a natural continuation of our efforts over the past half century to advocate for, and to support, each other.
10,000 Couples: How is the LGBTEI funded? What can someone do to help out?
HZ: We are currently an all-volunteer organization, and we are always seeking people to contribute their skills and resources to our effort. A partial list of volunteer needs is available on our web site athttp://www.lgbtei.org/p/volunteer.html. If someone has a particular interest, we can work with them to develop a volunteer opportunity to meet their unique situation.
So far, funding has been secured from foundation grants. We expect foundation and corporate funding sources to be an important part of our future operations, along with individual donations, fees received for services, and government grants.
TC: We encourage all of your readers to follow the work and activities of the LGBT Elder Initiative on Facebook or at www.lgbtei.org. We welcome feedback, questions, comments, or suggestions at our email address:LGBTElderInitiative@gmail.com. Also, we appreciate when people make us aware of their efforts so that we can link to them and vice versa. We want to make sure that as much information and as many services as possible are available to LGBT seniors.
Community Update – Winter 2012
Great progress has been made over the past few months. Perhaps most importantly, the awarding of a $35,000 grant from The Philadelphia Foundation (TPF) to help the LGBT Elder Initiative (LGBTEI) conduct a planning process to determine the most advantageous organizational structure and legal entity status in order to meet our mission. Huge thanks to The Philadelphia Foundation for their support of our efforts!
With the awarding of the grant from TPF, we hired Fairmount Ventures to lead our organizational planning process over the course of the next nine months. This process will include extensive interviews with community members, LGBT and Aging organizations and other key community leaders and informants. In Fall 2012 the Organizational Structure and Development Committee will decide what structure is optimal and will present that recommendation to the LGBTEI Working Group.
While that process is taking place, the work of the LGBTEI is continuing. The Access Committee is preparing the first segment of the LGBT Elder Resource Guide – Housing. In January, the Access Committee circulated a survey seeking LGBT-friendly senior housing resources in the Delaware Valley. The results of that survey will be published on our web site and in print for use by Aging and LGBT service organizations and consumers.
In addition to its work on the Resource Guide, the Access Committee is developing Cultural Competency training modules. The committee is currently working with area agencies on aging to make sure that these modules meet the needs of service organizations, companies and senior communities. The training modules will promote administrative, staff and consumer understanding of LGBT social, cultural and linguistic norms.
The Social Networking Committee will screen the film “GenSilent” in several locations in the Delaware Valley starting this spring. A guided discussion will be conducted at each presentation. This is a powerful film about the lives of LGBT elders and the issues that we face as we age. The committee is also planning round table discussions and service programs at the annual Trans Health Conference in April.
The Communications Committee continues with its work delivering content to PGN in the monthly column, “Gettin’ On.” Public relations efforts include notices appearing in PCA’s e-Milestones and PCA’s daily news bulletin. In December, our interviewed by lgbtSr.com received wide distribution.
The current web site is being redesigned and will be upgraded starting in September. The new web site will host the LGBT Elder Resource Guide; comprehensive information that both service providers and consumers need to know; a detailed Community Calendar; an e-newsletter; and list management and fund raising capabilities. The site will be visually, linguistically and culturally competent.
Having started with support for PA House Bill 1828 which will end inheritance tax discrimination in Pennsylvania, the Policy Committee is expanding its activities with support for legislative initiatives including:
· re-authorization of the Older Americans Act;
· adoption of the Respect for Marriage Act which would end DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act); and
· passage of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
Current federal and state policies prevent or deter LGBT older adults from receiving Social Security Partnership benefits and from sharing medical insurance and pension benefits with their partners. LGBT couples and surviving partners are inequitably taxed on income and inheritance. The current patchwork of marriage/civil union/domestic partnership laws creates confusion, establishes obstacles and is inequitable to LGBT Americans in general and LGBT older adults in particular. Comprehensive, national, non-discrimination legislation based on sexual orientation and gender identity will go far toward correcting these injustices.
The next several months will be very exciting for the Elder Initiative with the formulation of an organizational structure, development of new programs and the implementation of new services for consumers and Aging and LGBT organizations. All of these efforts will assist the LGBTEI in building bridges between consumers and service organizations and between LGBT and Aging agencies in the Delaware Valley.
Thank you for your continued support of the LGBT Elder Initiative and our work! Please send your comments, questions and suggestions to us at email@example.com
Terri Clark, MPH, CHES Heshie Zinman