Tuesday, April 2, 2013

One More Reason To Love Janesville, Wisconsin

The overwhelming majority of lesbian and gay
seniors--up to 75%--live alone. 
If we're lucky, Chely Wright will live to be an old, old woman. I mean old. Ancient and still writing songs.

That wish goes for all the activists leading the way right now. I hope every last one of them lives to be at least 100, because I have a hunch we will need their leadership.

By the year 2030, sociologists figure there will be around 7.2 million LGBT folks over the age of 65, compared to 3 million today. I read that here.

As LGBT people age, they face all the standard issues of aging, plus a few extras.

For example: LGBT people going into nursing homes and long-term care facilities are often forced to go back into the closet to avoid discrimination and mistreatment from their fellow residents and even their healthcare providers. Isn't that sad? After decades of being out?

Also, they won't--or too often can't--participate in grief groups to work through the loss of their partner.

I read about this in a touching and slightly worrisome scholarly article in which the authors interviewed elderly LGBT residents of nursing homes.

Although only 12 pages long, the word fear appears 37 times. Aging LGBT folks are understandably afraid--I encourage you to read (or even just skim) this article.

Thankfully, an excellent organization called SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Elders) is working to resolve these issues. They've been around since 1978 and are basically amazing.

Thanks to their presence, a couple of large cities have developed senior housing specifically for LGBT individuals, which is a step in the right direction.

In addition, the town of Janesville, Wisconsin is forming a group called The Aging LGBT Adults Committee. They seek to provide resources for aging LGBT adults in their community. I love that. Here's a brief article from their local paper about the committee. http://gazettextra.com/news/2013/apr/01/ruby-project-organizing-aging-lgbt-group/

Now let's think about this: unless Janesville, Wisconsin is prepared for a population boom of mythic proportion, we are going to need some extra space and new ideas for how to be old, gay, and fabulous. We can't all live in Janesville, Wisconsin, although I'm sure it is perfectly lovely.

In the meantime, as we hammer out the details of our future, let's keep in mind the aging people in our own lives. Let's remember to treat them they way we hope to be treated when our time comes.