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Advocates, WeHo Residents Talk LGBT Aging Issues

A panel discussion spotlights hardships that older members of the LGBT community experience.

West Hollywood residents joined a panel of local and national advocates Thursday to discuss strategies for improving the lives of older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults.

The city and SAGE—Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders—sponsored the event that took place at the Plummer Park Community Center.

Panelists included:

  • Michael Adams, SAGE executive director
  • Eric Carlson, an expert on nursing homes and assisted living facilities
  • Eric Harrison, executive director of Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing
  • Kathleen Sullivan, director of senior services for the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center
  • Ivy Bottini, a West Hollywood resident and LGBT community activist
  • Rob Bergstein, a WeHo resident and AIDS education activist who has served on a number of local civic advisory boards.

Barbara Sinclair, former president and current member of the Los Angeles County Commission for Older Adults, moderated the discussion that centered on improving LGBT seniors' access to transportation, housing, financial assistance as well as increasing awareness within younger segments of the LGBT community about the importance of helping elders.

Channeling federal government funding to LGBT elder programs was another theme panelists cited as crucial to efforts aimed at helping LGBT seniors.

"If we want to have want to have vibrant LGBT aging programs here and in communities all across the country, those programs need resources," Adams said. "That requires that our community get our fair share of government funding for aging programs, and we are far from being in that position."

Of the $2 billion the federal government spends each year on programs for senior citizens, programs specifically for LGBT seniors receive less than $2 million, Adams said.

He and other panelists called for legislative reforms that would give LGBT couples equal status in the realm of Social Security and health care benefits.

Bottini suggested initiating friendship programs to connect younger LGBT community members with the elderly to create a social support system for those who would otherwise live in isolation.

"There are so many of us who will not accept age, will not accept that we need help, will not be seen in public because we have aged," Bottini said.

Bergstein spoke about the impact of HIV/AIDS on older LGBT adults. Many older adults living with the disease face the challenge of having to adjust to living a longer life than they may have initially expected and maintaining access to health care services.

"In the LGBT community ... we don't talk about aging, we don't talk about senior issues," Harrison said. "The glitziest, largest fundraisers are never senior-focused, they're youth focused. ... We have to send the message that we will take care of you when you're young, but we will also protect you when you're elderly."

Visit SAGE's website and the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center's website for more information.

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Brian Ray December 07, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Also vist Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing's Website (gleh.org). They are the first and , currently, only nonprofit organization that directly houses AND serves the LGBT elder community.
michael December 08, 2012 at 05:15 AM
The stereotype gay and lesbian elder....we're either rich or dirt poor... The truth however falls in the middle...the ignored middle class gay and lesbian elder. We spend years of our life in West Hollywood....we love this city...we get involved and comfortable, and live with a sense of security... a false sense of security...... Get old, a bit frail...and just when you need LGBT retirement living you're forced to leave your city at your most vulnerable time to seek housing elsewhere. I'm not sure what the solution is.....or how to proceed... We need a public dialogue.....We need public input... All city council members and candidates should address this issue.
Robin Conerly December 11, 2012 at 11:23 PM
West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation has been providing permanent housing for over 25 years to low income older adults and special needs populations many with HIV/AIDS. WHCHC owns and operates two buildings which serve only residents with the HIV/AIDS disability the majority of whom are either older adults or are in the 45-55 age cohort. Additional older LGBT residents, including those with a variety of disabilities, are housed in WHCHC's affordable apartment complexes inside and outside of West Hollywood.
jim fouratt December 12, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Michael Adams and his way too young staff has lots to lean from someone like Ivy Bottini who spent over ten years in getting AFFORDABLE housing for low income LG of all gender expression senior housing . He also has a lot to learn from Mark Seagal who has just pulled off public tax funding of a LG Elders of all gender expression senior /elder Housing in Philedelphia,. Adams and his staff should spend more time serving seniors over 6O in NYC than building an empire ,..,. Grassroots local participation is essential . Adams could start by including the member population in policy decisions making and realizing that older LGBT people who want to work and are experienced would be a far better hire than all those young people that populate his staff . My comment is not intended to be ageist but to put seniors back into authority... and a return to the original mission goal of servicing our elders and let the 40 year olds find other organizational support jim fouratt

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