Prizm News / January 22, 2019 / By Bob Vitale

Our community has never had a big generation of older adults. We need to learn how to care for them.

By Bob Vitale

The generation of LGBT Americans that won greater acceptance and legal rights now is blazing a trail into its golden years. As the first group of LGBT elders to have lived much of their lives out of the closet, they’re bringing new attention to the unique issues we face as we grow older.

A two-day conference scheduled next month in Dayton will explore more than a dozen topics related to the health and quality of life for LGBT elders. The Miami Valley LGBT Horizons of Aging Summit is geared toward healthcare professionals and members of our community.

It’s scheduled for Monday, Feb. 11 and Tuesday, Feb. 12 at the Sinclair Conference Center on the campus of Sinclair Community College.

“Part of the point of this conference is we want to make providers aware: You all soon will be facing a cohort of out, proud LGBTQ people who won’t go back into the closet,” says Jerry Mallicoat, LGBTQ health initiatives program manager at Public Health-Dayton and Montgomery County, which is organizing the conference. Its presenting sponsors are Rainbow Elder Care of Greater Dayton and the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging.

Mallicoat’s agency, Dayton LGBTQ groups and Wright State University’s Boonshoft School of Medicine have begun a survey to assess the needs of aging LGBTQ people in the region. A 2015 survey of older community members in Northeast Ohio and similar studies nationwide already have discovered a number of concerns.

A survey last year by the AARP found that three of four LGBTQ adults over age 45 worry they won’t have adequate support from friends and family as they grow older. And more than half of LGBTQ adults worry they’ll feel forced to hide or deny their identity if they ever need in-home or nursing-home care.

Nii-Quartelai Quartey, AARP’s national leader of LGBTQ initiatives, says that and other research has “turned up the volume” of LGBTQ-focused work by the advocacy group for older Americans.

AARP surveys have found that older members of the community also worry their identity will have a negative impact on the healthcare they receive. Those worries are even greater for LGBTQ people of color.

“We can play a significant role in addressing competent care,” says Quartey, who will speak at the Dayton conference. “We’re interested in turning this information into action.”

Other speakers at the conference include filmmaker Stu Maddox, who directed and produced the 2010 documentary, “Gen Silent,” which explored the issue of LGBT elders who feel forced back into the closet when they need long-term care. The film will be shown at the conference as well.

Breakout sessions include workshops on HIV and aging; cultural competency; inclusive and affordable housing; the intersections of race, age, gender identity and sexual orientation; hospice care; suicide prevention; LGBTQ veterans; assisted living; dementia and transitioning through the ages.

A number of presenters come from within Ohio. Mallicoat says there’s a growing network that’s collaborating on these issues.

“We have great expertise in Ohio,” he says. “We should tap into that. It helps create a stronger community.”