LGBTQ Older Adults Face Obstacles
Though financial disparities impact individuals in the LGBTQ community differently, the most pervasive common concern is retirement. With the population of LGBTQ older adults is set to increase exponentially as the baby boomers age, focusing on the needs of this demographic is crucial. According to a 2012 study by Prudential, “baby boomers are and will continue to enter retirement in record numbers, which will focus the community on caring for the financial, health, and housing needs of LGBT elders.” Triangle Community Center (TCC) is working to address LGBTQ older adult needs.
Since the spring and summer of 2015, members of TCC staff have been working to pave a pathway for communication between LGBTQ older adults, especially at retirement homes and senior centers, and TCC through LGBTQ competent presentations for service providers and residents.
LGBTQ older adults often experience isolation as they age at a disproportionate rate to the general population. A lack of family or social support often requires LGBTQ adults to live alone or to move into assisted living facilities. Older adults who opt for assisted living facilities are suddenly required to place all of their trust in their care providers to be LGBTQ competent. As is often the case, once in an assisted living facility, care providers are not understanding or affirming.
Many LGBTQ older adults opt to go back into the closet when moving to assisted living homes, even foregoing being out to their primary care providers. LGBTQ-specific elder abuse is a pervasive problem in assisted living and respite care facilities due in part by a lack of competency from the service providers about the LGBTQ community and LGBTQ-specific abuse and intervention. Younger professionals responsible for preventing and responding to abuse often are unaware as to the extent of danger and prejudice LGBTQ older adults have faced throughout their lives including struggles with law enforcement, beatings, and other life-threatening and traumatizing encounters.
TCC fills an important gap in reaching out to older adults. Fighting isolation is a primary goal of TCC. Social programs such as Wednesday Night Movies, OUTDoor & More, and the newly implemented art program which was designed explicitly to appeal to older adults in the community. TCC also offers trainings to agencies that serve as care providers for older adults. The agency also participates in meetings with older adults at the Norwalk Senior Center, and participates in educational forums at other agencies serving older adults, including the Stamford Senior Center.
Lack of accessibility is a major reason LGBTQ community centers find it difficult to connect with this demographic. Since returning from the Creating Change conference of February 2015, TCC staff and board members have been giving competency trainings at senior centers in Fairfield County and dedicating their time to building lasting connections between TCC and facilities that house and address the needs of LGBTQ older adults to ensure LGBTQ-specific abuse is something care providers know how to look out for and respond appropriately. Lasting connections also exist between TCC and the open and affirming congregations in the area who already have a high engagement rate with older adults through membership and social programs.
Twenty-five years of growth for TCC has meant that the center has been able to become more responsive to the needs of the community. Having full-time staff and a strong corps of volunteers and partner organizations allows for TCC to identify needs from individuals who may be kept from participating due to factors like accessibility. Everyday equality is about identifying and responding to the real and immediate needs in the lives of all LGBTQ individuals.