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Monday, April 4, 2011

Time To Take Care Of Our Seniors

Gay SeniorsBy David Mixner -

In the Bible, Psalm 71:18 says, "Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me....". The verse goes on to say, "Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me...." This site has written often about the increasing crisis among LGBT senior citizens. The 'baby boomer' generation in our community is now experiencing the first pangs of getting older. In addition, this is the first generation of our senior citizens that is basically out and not in the closet.
In a major and significant report by the California Center for Health Research at UCLA, they found that our seniors are dramatically more likely to have chronic physical and deep mental health problems. In their time of need, they are much less likely than their straight counterparts to have partners, children or primary care givers. In fact the report says that 50% of LGBT seniors are likely to live alone compared to only 13% of straight seniors! Remember, this generation was forbidden by law to adopt children or even in many states be allowed to raise their own children.
What the report doesn't fully address is that this generation of LGBT seniors is the 'AIDS Generation' more than the 'Baby Boomer' generation. Many of our seniors have lost most of their male friends to the disease. Entire social networks of male homosexuals in the 1980's and early 1990's were wiped out. This fact means our seniors are even more alone and many are beginning to live in fear of who will take care of them. Our seniors are entering their later years with a support system that vanished two decade ago.
Our community has been battling for years to make sure the next generation of young LGBT citizens will not have to go through the horrors that many in my generation experienced. In that process, we most likely have forgotten our LGBT seniors. There is very little housing for our seniors. Many states have no laws protecting open seniors from abuse in nursing homes and physical care centers. Being openly gay presents many new problems of harassment and abuse in these institutions. Some seniors have gone 'back in the closet' when confronted with these difficulties. Our young have not taken the time to record the history of a powerful generation of freedom fighters so their stories will never be lost.
In many societies, how the young respect and treat their elders and tribal leaders is how that society shall be judged by future generations. This generation of seniors took care of our sick, buried our dead and never once, ever, stopped fighting for the freedom of future generations. Now it is time for this community to identify ways to honor them with respect, to embrace them and to record their stories of struggle for freedom and dignity. They need you now. Not only is their time running out, so is the community's to honor these pioneers and be there for them.
Walt Whitman wrote:
"Youth, large, lusty, loving-youth full of grace, force, fascination,
Do you know that Old Age may come after you with equal grace,
force, fascination?"

for more from David visit Live from Hell's Kitchen.


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