We're here! We're queer! We're senior!


There's a trend happening in our community right under our noses, though most of us probably don't even see it: We're getting older as a population, and by 2030, one in every four of us will be over the age of 60.

Thankfully, in the LGBT community, some people have started to take notice, and are taking important steps in assuring that old age doesn't translate to isolation, depression and discrimination for Michigan's - and America's - gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender seniors.

The Jewish Gay Network of Michigan's Judy Lewis put it well when she said, "I don't see it as being overwhelming. I just see us needing to get started with it."

And get started they have. The informal aging coalition has already met twice, with plans to get together again in early August. They've set some achievable, yet measurably helpful goals - such as hiring an intern at Affirmations to specifically work on gay aging issues and compiling a list of religious, legal, social and mental and physical health care resources to eventually be printed and distributed as a packet to places frequented by Michigan's seniors.

The senior issues coalition is a great idea to get the ball rolling on resolving some of these crucial issues, and it's coming at a time when it seems that every day, more and more people, organizations and governments are noticing that, like the rest of America's population, the LGBT community is aging.

But though gay seniors face many of the same difficult choices and life changes that their straight counterparts do, there are many challenges specific to older LGBT people that will put an unnecessary burden on them as they retire, create wills, become hospitalized, enter nursing homes, die.

Growing old is part of life, but it doesn't have to be something that LGBT elders look to with fear and trepidation. We want the Golden Years to live up to their promising name - not just for the gay Baby Boomers, but for future generations as well.

And that's why we all need to be involved in this discussion. The current participants of the senior issues coalition already understand that no matter what your age, issues affecting the elderly will one day apply to all of us. These are endeavors we are undertaking not just for today's seniors, but so that all of us, as we age, are able to do so without sleepless nights, without fear and, in fact, with positive anticipation as we enter another phase of our lives.

But more help is needed to make all this come true. For example, we need to find out which nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the state are welcoming and accepting and which could use some work to become more inclusive of LGBT seniors. We need to figure out what the resources are and then close gaps that need to be filled - such as mentoring and volunteer programs to utilize seniors' time, and buddy systems to assure that no one is ever left alone.

We've come so far as to acknowledge our LGBT aging community. Now we - meaning individuals, organizations and our local, state and federal governments - need to continue to take steps to make their lives happier and healthier as out, gay Americans.

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