2 seminars Saturday in Dallas address questions in the neglected issues of LGBT aging
Dallas’s LGBT community rarely lags behind other cities in organizing. But in LGBT senior services, the North Texas area is just getting started.
On Saturday, June 13, two events take place relating to caring for LGBT elders. Cannon Flowers has organized a Senior Summit that begins in the morning at Senior Source on Harry Hines Boulevard. They plan to discuss everything from services for the elderly to building our own assisted living center in Oak Lawn.
In the afternoon, Cathedral of Hope presents a free seminar focusing on keeping seniors in their homes longer. Jon Nelson coordinated the event at Cathedral of Hope. His company, Home Helpers of Rockwall, focuses on in-home, non-medical care.
“If you don’t have kids, who do you turn to” to care for you when you get older, Nelson said.
He said since many people in the LGBT community are estranged from their families, they have no one to get them to medical appointments or help them with shopping.
“All information shows if you stay in your home longer, you will live a healthier and happier life,” Nelson said. But that can be difficult for LGBT seniors who have no one to turn to for help.
In addition to Nelson, three experts will make brief presentations during the seminar, including an attorney who is an elder care specialist, a certified financial planner and a geriatric care manager.
Keeping elders in their homes longer is just one piece of the puzzle. For those who can no longer live alone, other options must be available, including assisted living options that keep LGBT elders engaged and connected to their community and nursing care where LGBT seniors remain safe.
“We need to have a conversation in the Dallas LGBT community on aging,” Flowers said.
He said that conversation has never taken place here.
Flowers has been in touch with SAGE, Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders, a New York-based organization that has been working with the older LGBT community since 1978 and has grown into a national organization with affiliates around the country. But SAGE has no Texas affiliates.
SAGE spokeswoman Kira Garcia said SAGE operates five senior centers in New York City that provide a connection to social services, support groups, speakers and classes.
Social programs include help for those who can’t make it to the center themselves.
In addition, SAGE does advocacy work on the city, state and federal level. Garcia said currently the group is working on a White House summit on aging, making sure LGBT issues remain included. Earlier this year the White House held a conference specifically concerned with LGBT elders that Flowers and people from SAGE attended.
Housing is a prime concern for the elderly. How assisted living and nursing facilities deal with LGBT residents causes many to fear for their own safety. Many return to the closet to protect themselves.
Most facilities say they welcome LGBT residents but none in the Dallas area offers any programs specifically for their LGBT residents.
“Inclusion or tolerance is not enough,” Garcia said.
She said little things like showing a movie or having a conversation about an LGBT issue combats isolation and keeps an elderly resident connected.
Serena Worthington oversees SAGE’s affiliates program. Currently there are 27 chapters located in 20 states. The closest chapters to Dallas are SAGE Tulsa and Sage Albuquerque.
Many of the steps to becoming a SAGE affiliate, as Worthington outlined them, are things Flowers and his committee have already done in preparing for this weekend’s senior summit.
The first step, Worthington said, is to “take the pulse of the community.” That may include a needs assessment, focus groups and community meetings.
Step two is to “understand how to get there.” Get to know other providers, what networks already exists and informal groups already catering to LGBT seniors. Then find out what programs and services are offered and figure out if those can be incorporated or adapted for the LGBT community.
One of SAGE’s successful programs is training providers in the community, a program Worthington calls the community ambassadors program.
Taking what’s already available — Resource Center and DGLA police training programs — and adapting and offering them to elder care providers such as nursing homes could change a facility from tolerant and accepting to nurturing its LGBT residents.
Worthington said one of the benefits of working with SAGE is sharing the collective experience of the only national group of people working with LGBT elders.
Meanwhile, Dallas takes its first major step in providing care for LGBT elderly. Flowers hopes to leave the summit with action items to get going.
He said he’s looking forward to having this conversation with about 100 people scheduled to attend the summit and begin to answer the question: What does the future look like for us?
LGBT Aging Resources
Coalition for LGBT Aging DFW
Home Helpers and Direct Link of Rockwall
Gay-owned business providing senior home care and services throughout the Rockwall area.
469-269-0227 or 469-269-0227
Resource Center Gray Pride
Offers social opportunities, counseling and a variety of health services to area LGBT seniors while raising awareness to issues facing the community.
The Senior Source
Works with the Coalition for LGBT aging.
Prime Timers-Dallas/Fort Worth
Social organization for gay and bisexual men providing social, educational, and recreational activities in a supportive atmosphere.
Encouraging healthy living choices through education, exploration and self-awareness for historically marginalized communities including
Social group for women who are coming out or have come out later in life. Meets monthly at LaMadeleine, 3906 Lemmon Ave.
National Resource Center on LGBT Aging
Provides training, technical assistance and educational resources to aging providers, LGBT organizations and LGBT older adults.
Project of SAGE.
firstname.lastname@example.org • LGBTAgingCenter.org
Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
Offering supportive services to and advocacy for LGBT older adults and their caregivers. Provides training for aging providers and LGBT organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 12, 2015.