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Center for Disability and Elder Law launches 'Proud to Thrive'
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2019-11-30

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The Center of Disability and Elder Law ( CDEL ) announced its "Proud to Thrive" program at an "LGBT Elder Cultural Responsiveness and Advance Directive Training for Legal Professionals" event Nov. 20 at Clark Hill PLC's Chicago headquarters. LAGBAC's Mentorship Program and Pride Action Tank sponsored the event.

CDEL, according to its website, "was founded [in 1984] to provide pro bono legal services to low income residents of Cook County, Illinois who are either elderly or who have permanent disabilities."

Proud to Thrive will help low-income LGBT elders in Cook County with legal resources they otherwise would not be able to access.

Following CDEL Executive Director Caroline Manley opening remarks, CDEL Equal Justice Works Fellow Elisabeth Hieber—who will be implementing Proud to Thrive on CDEL's behalf—spoke about the need for this program due to the myriad barriers to proper care that LGBT elders face as they age.

Hieber's presentation focused on providing culturally responsive services for LGBT elders. They outlined that the Proud to Thrive program will include mobile legal clinics at LGBT-affirming locations, power of attorney workshops, educational programming and cultural responsiveness training. Hieber said this kick-off event was the first of many cultural responsiveness trainings they will be conducting.

To explain why the Proud to Thrive program is necessary, Hieber showed a clip from the 2010 Gen Silent documentary about the fears LGBT elders ( aged 50 and over ) have with institutions that are focused on elder care. Hieber noted the studies that estimate that more than 2.4 million LGBT elders live in the United States and this number will increase to five million by 2030. They said a 2016 survey found that 56,000 LGBT elders live in Chicago.

Hieber outlined the three LGBT elder generations in these categories—Invisible Generation who were born in the 1920s, the Silenced Generation born in the 1930s-40s and the Pride Generation born in the 1950s-60s. They said that due to when these LGBT elders were born they have had a lifetime of discrimination and invalidation that has led to financial instability, stress and social isolation and hesitancy to access senior services.

In terms of LGBT elders history of legal marginalization, Hieber said this includes many years of criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity, the HIV/AIDS crisis, exclusion from the right to marry and no legal protections against employment, housing and healthcare discrimination. Hieber reiterated that because LGBT elders have not had full equality they experience higher rates of poverty and pointed to the studies that found 20 percent of LGBT elders are less likely to access various government services like housing and food assistance and senior centers due to fears of discrimination.

Hieber said this is where Proud to Thrive enters the equation to provide LGBT elders with access to legal resources and affirming and culturally responsive services that comprise legal aid and pro bono legal services, housing support, estate planning assistance and help completing advance directives. They noted that legal practitioners can address these needs by being aware that LGBT people exists at the intersection of other diverse experiences, getting educated including using the correct terms to describe LGBT people's identities, committing to responsive action and finally providing culturally responsive support such as having updated intake questionnaires, forms, interviews and procedures that are LGBT-inclusive and partnering with LGBT organizations to do this work among other things.

Attorney and CDEL Legal Director Thomas Wendt's presentation focused on CDEL's Senior Center Initiative which encompasses powers of attorney for property and healthcare directives and living wills. Wendt said that access and accessibility are the biggest barriers for elders to have these legal documents drawn up.

Wendt emphasized that advance directives are especially important for LGBT elders, as they can be used to protect the ability of unmarried partners, friends and networks of chosen family to participate in health care and financial decisions. He explained the statutory short forms for each advance directive and taught attendees how to assist seniors in completing these documents at upcoming Proud to Thrive advance directive workshops.

A Q&A session followed.

The next workshop will take place Tuesday, Dec. 3, at 1 p.m. at Oak Park Library, 834 Lake St., Oak Park. Interested parties should call 312-736-5900 to register. Individuals interested in Proud to Thrive's services can call 312-376-1880 or email proudtothrive@gmail.com .

See CDELaw.org .


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