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Advocates launch drive for LGBT senior resources
by Matt Simonette
2018-05-21

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The LGBT-advocacy organizations Pride Action Tank and the OUTAging Committee announced the launch of a comprehensive, three-pronged initiative to bring resources to LGBT seniors on May 21.

The initiative was announced by its principal participants at a press conference at AARP'S Chicago headquarters. The launch comes a year after the OUTAging Conference gathered LGBT- and aging-related concerns from advocates, service providers and community members in May 2017.

Committee members spent a year "sifting through the information" culled from the two-day conference, said Pride Action Tank Executive Director Kim Hunt, who added that cultural competency in senior LGBT issues among service providers and accessibility of safe and affordable housing emerged as the most common concerns.

Given that about 146,000 Chicagoans identify as LGBT—and that only the Town Hall apartment complex in Lake View, with 79 units, is the only development aimed at LGBT seniors—"Addressing the needs of LGBT older adults is not something we cannot just build our way out of," said Hunt.

Three major themes emerged from the data and anecdotes compiled by the project's principals, according to a May 17 press release, among them that there is a general lack of knowledge about how to access support and resources for LGBT seniors; that those LGBT seniors want strong social networks and communities; and lastly that there is a strong need for systematic and institutional reform in Illinois to better get resources in place.

As such, a key recommendation emerging from the study is for a comprehensive LGBT Older Adult Competency Training for state funded project participants and service providers working with older adults.

Cultural competency, said activist Donald Bell at the press conference, should be defined as the mark of "a professional community able to serve us as our true selves."

Indeed, Britta Larson, Center on Halsted's senior services director, said that some 80 percent of LGBT seniors must return to the closet in most assisted living facilities because of harassment, bullying and discrimination from providers and peers.

Advocates must strive to make sure that those seniors can be "out and proud," Larson added.

The initiative's organizers will next hold community meetings mid- to late-summer to get public input on their findings, Hunt said.

The OUTAging Committee includes representatives from AARP, Affinity Community Services, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Center on Halsted, SAGE ( Advocacy & Services for Older Adults ) and The Care Plan, as well as a number of community members.

Bell praised the organizations that took a role in the project, adding, "I am delighted that they have decided to be allies to my community."

Also speaking at the press conference were Chicago Commission on Human Rights Commissioner Mona Noriega; AARP Associate Director for Advocacy and Outreach Terri Worman; and Matthew Vail, a social worker at Rush University Medical Center.

The report is available at prideactiontank.org/projects/outaging/.


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