The first Senior Summit for Aging LGBT was held on Saturday at Senior Source on Harry Hines Boulevard. More than 100 people attended.
Population estimates from the Census Bureau show there are about 371,000 LGBT people 45 years and older in Texas and 60,000 in Dallas County. Organizers of the summit called those figures an upcoming crisis in the LGBT community.
“We’ve been focused for 35 years on HIV/AIDS,” said organizer Cannon Flowers. “We’ve ignored trans people, elders and youth.”
Among the biggest fears addressed was gays and lesbians having to go back into the closet to live safely in assisted living or nursing facilities. As the baby boomer generation ages, more people who were never in the closet and don’t know how to live in the closet or who fought for equality refuse to live miserably pretending to be someone they’re not.
Several approaches were offered.
Rob Emery discussed plans for an Oak Lawn area assisted living facility. He said management is not a problem. Nor is financing. The biggest obstacle at this point is securing the right property. Two are currently being negotiated.
Sharyn Fein is CEO of Ed-U-Care and its Bridge Building Network supports marginalized groups like the LGBT community by encouraging healthy living choices through education, cultural sensitivity training, exploration and self- awareness. She talked about working with existing nonprofits to provide services of interest to LGBT elders.
Lambda Legal Community Educator Omar Narvaez spoke about case work his organization is doing for LGBT elders. Social Security is one of the federal programs that still doesn’t offer equal benefits to gay and straight couples.
Other speakers included Bart Poche who spoke about research going on at University of North Texas on LGBT elders and the Rev. Steve Sprinkle gave the morning’s keynote address.
A second summit dealing more specifically with some of the issues addressed in smaller breakout sessions is being planned.