Aging and gay?

Emagine screens topical film Dec. 7

By Crystal A. Proxmire

ROYAL OAK -

What would you do if you were old, disabled or ill and the person feeding you put down the spoon and said that you are going to hell unless you change your sexual preference? What if your partner could not be at your side in the hospital or be close to you out of fear that a caregiver might see? What if you could not find housing that would allow you to grow old with the one you love? What if you were abused or neglected by nursing home staff, or harassed by other care home patients? These are the problems faced by aging LGBT seniors who are unable to find the support and care they need in the sunsets of their lives.

But a new coalition is being formed to help seniors in Southeast Michigan unite and address these issues. Service and Advocacy for Gay Elders is a national organization that provides research, resources and support for those looking to make a difference in the lives of older LGBT individuals. A Detroit chapter is in the works, and the group behind it, LGBT Older Adult Coalition, is hosting a documentary film screening at 7 p.m. Dec. 7 at Emagine Theater in Royal Oak.

There will be a free showing of the documentary "Gen Silent," directed by Stu Maddux. The film follows six gay seniors for a year as they try to navigate a health care system that is not sensitive to their situation or needs. It gives an eye-opening look at the discrimination they face and the challenges that come from going "back in the closet" in order to have an easier time receiving the care they need.

The film will be followed by information about the LGBT Older Adult Coalition and time to discuss what issues are important to the community. According to the film's producers, there are almost 38 million LGBT Americans over 65, or 12.6 percent of the population. This will nearly double by 2030. They also say that 50 percent of nursing home workers said their fellow workers would be intolerant of LGBT people in a recent survey.

The LGBT Older Adult Coalition consists of groups and individuals, including ACLU of Michigan, Adult Well Being Services, Affirmations, Citizens for Better Care, Equality Michigan, Jewish Gay Network, the Jim Toy Community Center and S.P.I.C.E. This coalition is working to create the SAGE chapter and is being funded with a grant from the HOPE Fund, administered by the ACLU of Michigan.

In addition to the upcoming movie and meeting, there currently are programs available for older adults through the Affirmations community center. Young @ Heart is a socializing and conversation group for those aged 45 and older, which meets 7-9 p.m. each Wednesday at Affirmations. The Senior Koffee Klatch is a discussion group that also plans outings to places like the Detroit Zoo, The Henry Ford Museum and Frankenmuth. Koffe Klatch meets each Wednesday from 1-2:30 p.m. Outskirts is a social group for women aged 45 and over. Events and meetings are organized through volunteers Paula or Kristen, who can be reached at 586-243-1005.

For more information, contact Kathleen LaTosch of Affirmations at 248-398-7105.

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