Finding information and resources during retirement and the golden years is difficult even for the most savvy of seniors. But LGBT elders have a particularly difficult time because until recently there did not appear to be that many resources available to them.
Recognizing that problem, national and local organizations are starting to develop specific initiatives to address the unique needs of the LGBT elder community.
On a national level, AARP sponsors SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders), which is a helpful website with information, pamphlets and videos on a variety of topics related to the particular issues of older LGBT individuals. Chapters have been springing up across the U.S., including the Carolinas, to bring a bit of a local touch to the mix, as well as a place to interact with others and develop friendships. AARP also has a separate webpage with some helpful information on such things as estate planning and places to find caregivers for LBGT loved ones.
The issue of caregiving is especially difficult for those taking care of Alzheimer’s patients. To that end, the Western Carolina Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association in Charlotte, N.C., provides information concerning that particular medical issue. More importantly, the association has sponsored several Conversations About LGBT Adults forums to look at the issues and needs of the community, as well as provide health and community resource information and work to connect the senior industry with the LGBT community.
Two additional resources for finding LGBT-friendly medical care is the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) website and the Charlotte Transgender Healthcare Group
An excellent local organization which is LGBT friendly is the Shepherd’s Center, which connects learning and program services for older adults. Among their services offerings is its Senior Health Insurance Information Program, where volunteers meet to help individuals navigate the Medicare system. The center also offers a tax filing assistance program and transportation services for medical and dental appointments.
Affordable housing is a particularly difficult issue for LGBT elders. Many LGBT elders are single, and may have families who are not supportive. Discrimination still abounds subtly and very few retirement communities expressly state they will not discriminate on basis of sexual orientation. One notable exception to this is the Sharon Village Retirement Community in southeast Charlotte which offers single-occupancy apartment living.
A non-profit organization in its infancy that is seeking to address this issue is A.S.P.I.R.E. (A Sacred Place Inviting Realistic Experience) whose goal is to reduce homelessness among marginalized groups, such as LGBT individuals and veterans, so that they can become self-sufficient.
There are also other area agencies which are not specifically focused on the issues and needs of LGBT elders, but can be helpful. One such agency is the Centralina Area Agency on Aging which provides services and referrals on a wide area of topics, including housing, caregiver support, transportation, home-delivered meals and legal services.
In addition there is All About Seniors which is an online senior resource referral directory for North and South Carolina; PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) which is a non-residential care facility on the corner of Milton Road and The Plaza which incorporates an adult day health center along with transportation and caregiver support services; and Just 1 Call, which is a source of information and referral for seniors in Mecklenburg County sponsored by the county Department of Social Services.
Places to Look for Information for LGBT Elders
• All About Seniors
• Alzheimer’s Association (Charlotte)
(A Sacred Place Inviting Realistic Experience)
• Centralina Area Agency on Aging
• Charlotte Transgender Medical Group
• Gay and Lesbian Medical Association
• LGBT Elder Advocates of Western North Carolina
• National Resource Center on LGBT Aging
(Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly)
(Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders)
• SAGE Wilmington of the Cape Fear Coast
• Sharon Village Retirement Community
• Shepherd’s Center of Charlotte