The demographic trends in the US are pretty clear: Americans are getting older, especially in the large Baby Boom generation. Within the LGBT community in particular, people are aging with unique concerns that disproportionately affect LGBT seniors more than their heterosexual counterparts.
In response to these trends and challenges, the Boston City Council’s Committee on Women & Healthy Communities convened a special hearing on July 16, 2013, to discuss the issues affecting older LGBT Bostonians as well as to explore the steps that the city is taking to address these issues. Fenway Health was represented at the hearing by Lisa Krinsky, Director of the LGBT Aging Project, a Fenway Health affiliate.
As part of the Fenway Institute’s research, education and policy efforts supporting LGBT health and well-being, the LGBT Aging Project continues to lead in areas of cultural competency training, community programming and advocacy for LGBT older adults.
Councilor Ayanna Pressley, Chairwoman of the Committee on Women & Healthy Communities, noted that the attendance of dozens of concerned Bostonians was testimony to the importance of these issues. Many Bostonians went a step further and rose to address the chamber, giving voice to the issues they face as LGBT elders or as people living with HIV/AIDS, including:
• The oft-cited suggestion, confirmed by public polling, that senior heterosexual Americans are most likely among all Americans to harbor negative attitudes and misconceptions towards the LGBT community.
• A need for awareness and education around the health care needs of people over 50 who are living with HIV/AIDS, and the related lack of medical and public health research being done around HIV/AIDS care in the context of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
• Stigma in the community and in the workplace that silences people living with HIV/AIDS, especially among immigrant communities.
• A lack of awareness of the many options for legal recourse for individuals facing illegal discrimination based on factors related to age, sexual orientation, or HIV/AIDS.
Resources for You or Someone You Know
Though the City Council Hearing confirmed that there is more work to be done to address these issues, many resources do already exist to help LGBT older adults and older people living with HIV/AIDS. These resources include:
• Community events for LGBT older adults, such as community meal programs in Massachusetts, many of which are supported in part by Fenway Health’s LGBT Aging Project.
• Health Aging Programs for Massachusetts residents, also supported by the LGBT Aging Project. Sample programs include memory training courses and fall prevention classes.
• LGBT community education programs and cultural competency training for medical, caregiving and affiliated service providers, presented by the LGBT Aging Project with help from community partners.