Difficult decisions await everyone as
we age, but too often elderly gay folks largely dependent on others
find their golden years to be their most troubling.
“They're not ready for us,” Amber
Hollibaugh, a senior strategist for the National Gay and Lesbian Task
Force, told 365gay.com last year.
Agencies dealing with the problem of an
aging gay population say it's rapidly increasing.
“The number of seniors could become a
kind of crisis like the HIV epidemic in the next five to ten years,
and there is no structure to deal with it,” Hollibaugh said.
Activists worry not only about access
to benefits from programs like Social Security and Medicaid but also
about discrimination and even open hostility.
In a recent survey conducted last year
by Community Marketing, Inc., titled Gay and Graying: Concerns for
the Future, 19% of respondents said they feared medical personnel
would not treat them with dignity and respect.
Seniors' lives are heavily impacted by
the delivery of healthcare. But the pillars of that care too often
ignore the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Access
to many of those benefits are closely intertwined with marriage, a
right denied to gay men and lesbians in 48 states and by the federal
“Marriage is a senior issue,” David
Aronstein, founder and president of Stonewall Communities
(sites.stonewallcommunities.org/www), told OUTTAKEOnline.com CEO
Charlotte Robinson in an exclusive talk posted at her website.
“[S]o many of the benefits that
accrue to older people are based on marital status. I think the
overturning of DOMA – the Defense of Marriage Act – is going to
be very important particularly for lower income seniors in the LGBT
community because it prevents spending federal money [for programs
Aronstein's organization is facing
these problems head on. The group advocates on behalf of gay men and
lesbians in their golden years, and envisions building a network of
LGBT facilities for seniors in the six state New England region.
Their first project, to be located in greater Boston, has been paused
due to the sour economy.
“We own a property now outside of
Kenmore Square in Boston, which is a great location, and are
permitted to build a 53 unit residential community that will be a
co-operative that will have fully furnished apartments and then on
the ground floor there'll be a dinning room, a wellness center, a
lounge and study area,” Aronstein said.
In the meantime, Aronstein says his
group is focused on developing a LGBT lifelong learning center and
gay senior outreach programs.
On the Net: More of this interview can
be found at voices.OUTTAKEOnline.com.