Like the rest of America, baby boomers in the LGBTQ community are facing retirement. The life expectancy in the United States now averages 78.6 years. And when it comes to LGBTQ aging, there is much more concern than simply the years ahead.
While confronted with the same challenges that everyone faces as they age, because of discrimination and violence faced in the earlier part of their life, LGBTQ adults may often be reluctant to use the resources available. This becomes a barrier that can stand in the way of a healthy and rewarding later life focusing on worries such as health care, caregiving, finances, transportation, isolation, housing and more.
“LGBTQ Aging in Pierce County” is a free town hall forum designed to help shape a more inclusive and age-friendly community. Registration and social begins at 12:30 p.m., town hall begins at 1 p.m. and end at 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 17 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Korean Women’s Associations (KWA), 123 E. 96th St. in Tacoma.
Introducing the event will be Dr. Karen Fredriksen-Goldsen, University of Washington School of Social Work, who will share information from “Aging with Pride,” the first federally-funded longitudinal research project examining the health, aging, and well-being over time of LGBTQ older adults. Participants will then be asked to provide input to design and enhance multigenerational relationships and resources for optimal aging.
“In many ways Pierce County is very welcoming,” said Aaron Van Valkenburg, Pierce County Aging & Disability Resources manager. “But we know there is much more work to do to be an inclusive community that welcomes and values all of our residents. We really hope that everyone takes advantage of this opportunity.”
Research is beginning to uncover what it means to be older and LGBTQ. For some older LGBTQ people who have spent a lifetime hiding their sexual orientation and gender identity, adjusting to aging and services that may require entering the safety of their home and private life can be a difficult adjustment. For those who have been open about their sexual orientation, they may feel the need to go back into the “closet” as they become more vulnerable. In many cases, the current generation of LGBTQ older adults have been disowned by family members and are less likely to have children. As a result, they are less likely than their heterosexual counterparts to have family supports in place to assist with caregiving.
“LGBTQ Aging in Pierce County” is free and open to the public. Pierce County Aging & Disability Resources, KWA, and Tacoma Older LGBT are partnering up to present this free event. Co-sponsors include the Rainbow Center, Franke Tobey Jones, Generations Aging with Pride, PCAF and Puget Sound Old Lesbians Organizing for Change (PSOLOC).