“With healthcare, most mainstream providers just don’t have the necessary competency to understand the perspective of older LGBT people; their language may be very unwelcoming, for example,” Carl notes. “As for financial stability, spousal support in the unfortunate event that a partner dies ceases to exist. Most are not eligible to receive pension support or benefits, and they are left struggling.”
And as for social isolation, Carl says, “By nature as we age, our social and family circles become limited. We have so many families of choice, so we don’t have that built-in support. Many [aging adults] were estranged from their families in younger years. This leads to mental depression and drugs to deal with that.”
In order to improve the quality of life among LGBT aging adults, Carl says bluntly that a service network that addresses their needs must be put into place.
“Training must be provided to mainstream nurses so that they better understand how to take care of LGBT people of a certain age; it would be nice to have younger gay folks running errands for them; and we need to provide social outlets for them,” he says.
He then explains the logic behind SAGE’s programs at the Rush Center: “If you think of a typical senior center, people like to be amongst themselves. We are trying to host more community-wide events so that people of all ages can come in and help.”
In other words, volunteers and donors are more than welcome.
Top photo: Doug Carl, program director for SAGE Atlanta, says the group aims to help LGBT elders cope with concerns like healthcare, housing and social isolation. (by Dyana Bagby)