discrimination and unequal service.
As their support networks shrink,older LGBQT adults can isolatethemselves and become insecure aboutsharing their sexual orientation orgender identity.
“People are living longer and are moresexually active than their predecessors,”Visser says.
Preconceptions about what’sacceptable sexually, particularly forolder adults, have very real implications.
Visser still hears stories about partnersnot being allowed in the room in end-of-life situations, and how same-sexcouples can't get shared accommodationin assisted-living facilities even thoughsame sex marriage in Alberta has beenlegal since 2005.
“We still have work to do to inform the
community,” Visser says. “Even though
we’re seeing leaders at pride parades
now, we need to see that continuum of
support and care go right through our
latter years. Things like isolation and
depression lead to decreased health and
wellness and increased health costs. We
know the vast majority of LGBTQ seniors
are sitting at home, not engaging. We
need to connect with those individuals
and bring them to the table.”
Housing, in particular, is a major issue
for older LGBTQ adults. Many may not
have children or other family members
to care for them physically or financially.
Or they may be estranged from theirfamilies.
That’s why the City of Edmonton isdetermining how affordable-housingagencies can accommodate low-incomeolder LGBTQ adults. And groups such asthe Edmonton Pride Seniors Group teachstaff and residents at care facilities aboutinclusivity, which is critical to ensuringolder LGBTQ adults feel safe where theylive.
“We want to be part of the overallcommunity, but one that is safe andrespectful,” Visser says. “We face manysimilar issues as other seniors, but westruggle with access to services and alack of understanding.” |a
It’s astonishing to think that Canadadecriminalized homosexuality less than
50 years ago.
“Historically, homosexuality wasregarded as a mental health issue.
Many older adults have experiencedthat trauma,” says Floyd Visser. He’sthe executive director of the SHARPFoundation, which cares for andsupports those living with and affectedby HIV. He notes that in their lifetime,older LGBTQ adults have gone throughtremendous changes in how peopleperceive and treat them.
“Many seniors have spent decadestrying to obtain equal rights and respectfrom their families, communities,workplaces and so on,” says Kelly Ernst,executive director of Calgary Outlink:Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity.
As today’s people in the LGBTQcommunity age, they tend to becomemore secretive about their sexualorientation than their youngercounterparts, largely because theylived through the lifelong stigma.
Studies have shown “out” seniors,particularly lesbians, often deny theirsexual orientation when they enterlong-term care facilities because they fear
Gay and gray
Older LBGTQ adults face
unique challenges as they age
WRITTEN BY COLLEEN SETOPHOTOGRAPHED BY MICHAEL INTERISANO
As their support
networks shrink, older
LGBTQ adults can