Caregiving can be a challenging, but rewarding process. When it comes to older LGBTQIA+ adults, there are several ways to become a better ally and meet the unique needs of the community:
1. Educate yourself.
Older LGBTQIA+ adults have all been impacted by events including the AIDS epidemic and rise of the LGBTQIA+ rights movement. Spending time learning about such things can give a better understanding about the experiences of LGBTQIA+ elders. There are also many trainings and resources available to learn about different gender and sexual identities as they relate to older adults. Although LGBTQIA+ elders can provide information about their identity, it’s important for you to take learning into your own hands. Relying on the LGBTQIA+ elder you are caring for to educate you on the issues can feel burdensome and frustrating for them. Find reliable sources from reputable organizations that are well versed in LGBTQIA+ topics.
2. Find LGBTQIA+-affirming providers.
It is crucial to find health providers who understand and know how to treat LGBTQIA+ community members, especially elders. There can be a lot of anxiety with this process due to things like previous negative experiences and lack of support from trained providers. As a caregiver, becoming an advocate for the LGBTQIA+ elder in your life means assisting with navigating this search. Resources like the LGBT Resource Guide from the Worcester LGBT Elder Network can be a great place to start. You can also contact your local Agency on Aging for additional paths to take. The GLMA Provider Directory and HRC Healthcare Equality Index can also offer insight on providers knowledgeable about health and LGBTQIA+ older adults.
3. Take time to listen.
Empathy and understanding play key roles in making older adults feel supported, especially those who identify as LGBTQIA+. There can be a lot of things for an older adult to unpack as they navigate their identity and aging. Actively listening to stories and concerns from LGBTQIA+ elders is a great way to know how you can best support their journey. It’s extremely important, however, to respect the conversations you have with who you are caring for. Some people may not feel comfortable coming out publicly or discussing past traumas. Be mindful of this as you care for LGBTQIA+ older adults.
4. Help find ways to connect with the local LGBTQIA+ community.
Social isolation is at an all-time high with the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among older LGBTQIA+ adults. Lack of in person support and interaction can negatively impact a person’s well-being. Luckily, many organizations are working on creative ways to help LGBTQIA+ elders reconnect. Local community groups, like the Worcester LGBT Elder Network and 508 Pride, as well as larger organizations like SAGE are excellent places to start. Additionally, in-person Pride celebrations and gatherings are beginning to re-emerge, creating opportunities for LGBTQIA+ elders to have a sense of community.
There are many factors that go into caring for an LGBTQIA+ elder, but you are not alone. Continuing to increase your understanding of the LGBTQIA+ community is essential to providing the care our older communities need!
American Psychological Association
American Medical Association
Movement Advancement Project
Worcester LGBT Elder Network
Source: Administration for Community Living
- Learn about its history.
Older Americans Month began in 1963 when the National Council of Senior Citizens met with John F. Kennedy. They advocated for the needs of older adults, which led to the month of May being designated as “Senior Citizens Month.” The name was ultimately changed to Older Americans Month.Every May, the Administration for Community Living encourages others to honor and acknowledge the contributions of older adults in the United States. It is a time to recognize and support the diverse aging populations of our communities. The theme for 2021 is “Communities of Strength.”
- Connect with an older adult in your community.
Senior isolation has been at an all-time high with the challenges and restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. As communities, we can work to combat this. There are many ways to safely interact with older adults including phone calls, letters, emails, smaller gatherings. Everyone’s communication style is different, but we all need connection.
- Volunteer.Want to give back? Find a local community organization, council on aging, or assisted living facility and see if there are any opportunities to volunteer. Spend your time supporting your neighbors. It makes our communities stronger when people help each other.
- Watch Eldercare 2021.If you’re looking to educate yourself further on issues impacting older adults, check out Eldercare 2021, presented by CMAA and the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office. Eldercare 2021 is a virtual broadcast event which features presentations on topics ranging from elder law to senior mental health. It also has a collection of local resources to help you find answers and information. Click here to watch the program on Youtube.
- Help Worcester become Age-Friendly.We are partnering with local organizations, businesses, and community members to make Worcester a safe, inclusive place for all populations, particularly older adults. Our goal is to have Worcester become officially recognized as an Age-Friendly Community. The Age-Friendly Worcester Initiative focuses on improving things like access to housing, support for caregivers, community engagement, social inclusion, and transportation. We’re looking for community members and organizations who are interested in these efforts, including you! For more information or to get involved, email Ethan Belding at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No matter what you do, May is a time to honor and recognize the accomplishments and contributions older adults across the country. To learn more about Older Americans Month, visit the ACL website.