It wasn’t that long ago that coming out meant inviting in discrimination on all fronts—most of today’s older LGBT community experienced prejudice and intolerance growing up. Sharing one’s sexual identity with healthcare professionals often meant receiving poor treatment, or none at all. Now more than ever, there’s a bigger push to do more for LGBT older adults—especially in forward-thinking places like San Francisco. And it couldn’t come sooner as this aging community has had to deal with needless challenges for far too long. Even in today’s more accepting world, LGBT older adults still face difficulties on a daily basis. It’s no wonder that many continue to hide their sexual preference from their doctors, sharing important personal details with only a few carefully chosen friends.
But the choice to not disclose vital information about their health can have harmful consequences. Getting proper mental, physical, and sexual health treatment is still a big obstacle within the LGBT aging community. Leah Eskenazi, of the Family Caregiver Alliance, shares some of the problems that LGBT older adults struggle with today. “The key challenges facing aging LGBT adults center around chronic health care, caregiving, financial security for long-term care, social isolation, building resiliency and where to find trusted help.” Fortunately, with its growing community of LGBT older adults, San Francisco is taking the lead to improve its resources for this vibrant and vital group.
San Francisco-Based Services for LGBT Older Adults
In recent years, San Francisco has been ramping up funding to local LGBT aging organizations and is home to a variety of nonprofits dedicated to serving the older LGBT community living here. Between these various nonprofits, there’s a wide range of services that can help your aging loved one feel more connected, get better healthcare, and know their rights.
- Lavender Seniors provides activities, community, and support
Lavender Seniors of the East Bay offers a slew of activities for LGBTQ older adults. Your loved one can join the monthly Lavender Seniors lunches, featuring entertainment and insightful discussions within a welcoming environment. Meanwhile, getting involved in projects like Lavender Scrolls and Emblem Projects increases the visibility of local LGBTQ older adults—and their volunteers can help your aging loved one with social connection, emotional support, and even help with shopping. The organization also provides educational outreach and training programs to raise public awareness of LGBTQ issues in the community.
- Openhouse Caring Connections offers friendship and socialization programs
Openhouse is another great organization with numerous resources for San Francisco’s aging LGBT community. Their Friendly Visitor Program, for example, connects compassionate volunteers with aging loved ones who might be suffering from isolation. This type of companionship can help reduce depression and anxiety in older adults. Since most of the volunteers are younger adults or teens, there’s an intergenerational aspect that your loved one can benefit from as well. Openhouse also offers Phone-A-Friend: similar to IOA’s Friendship Line, Phone-A-Friend connects LGBT older adults with caring volunteers who can talk with them about a range of issues. You can contact (415) 659-8123 for more information on either Phone-A-Friend or the Friendly Visitor Program.
- Openhouse Housing Resources features tips on local affordable housing
There’s plenty of help for LGBT older adults looking to find affordable housing. Your aging loved one can sign up for Openhouse’s affordable house mailing list, or join one of their local housing workshops. The nonprofit has also built San Francisco’s first-ever LGBT-friendly community housing at 55 Laguna. If your aging loved one wants to live in this welcoming abode, you can submit an application for the next lottery. Call (415) 296-8995, or email info@openhouse-sf for more information.
- Family Caregiver Alliance hosts caregiver support groups
Family Caregivers Alliance and Openhouse facilitate an online support group for caregivers of LGBT older adults. The LGBT Dementia Caregiver Support Group, meanwhile, offers a safe space for caregivers of loved ones with dementia. Openhouse also hosts a 10-week long workshop on self-care for caregivers, covering skills like mindfulness, time-management, and challenges specific to caring for an LGBT aging loved one. Having support is so important for caregivers—don’t hesitate to explore these San Francisco-based options.
- LGBT Guide explains the rights of the community
“Navigating the System: A Know-Your-Rights Guide for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders in California” is an excellent guide for your loved one to use as a reference. Written in 2011, it’s filled with information about issues concerning LGBTQ older adults in California, including how to get quality care and fair treatment. You can download the PDF for free and start reading immediately.
In San Francisco alone, there are currently around 25,000 aging adults who self-identify as LGBT—and as the number of LGBT older adults in America continues to grow (it’s expected to double by 2030) there’s an urgency to provide better resources and health care for this specific population. Fortunately, the San Francisco area is one of the best places to live as an LGBT older adult, with its multiple organizations aimed at serving this important and valued community. As caregivers, you can encourage your aging loved ones to celebrate their lives by exploring local resources, attending inclusive parties, or supporting causes like Institute on Aging’s fundraiser for LGBT seniors.
Institute on Aging supports the lives of the Bay Area’s diverse populations of older adults through compassion-based resources and services. Contact us today to learn more.