Key Takeaways

  • June Pride Month celebrations should not the be the end of important LGBTQ inclusion efforts.

  • Senior centers are playing a key role in supporting LGBTQ older adults especially during a time of heightened social isolation and loneliness brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Five key strategies can help your senior center better support LGBTQ older adults.

Organizations that serve older adults are making long-needed and renewed commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). And we're reminded of that especially in the month of June, when we see rainbow flags and social media banners celebrating LGBTQ Pride as an organizational DEI activity.

Yet when the rainbow flags and social media banners disappear as quickly as they appeared, does this mean the focus on LGBTQ inclusivity is over for the year? Furthering goals of LGBTQ inclusion and an emphasis on your ongoing commitment to DEI should happen every month of the year. SAGE’s National Resource Center on LGBTQ+ Aging has tips on making LGBTQ aging equity a part of your ongoing DEI efforts.

Why do LBGTQ older adults need more support?

Social isolation and loneliness of older adults gained increased attention during the COVID-19 pandemic. And so did the particularly plight of the already often marginalized LBBTQ community. In a poll conducted during the pandemic, 44% of LGBTQ respondents said they or someone in their house struggled with social and physical isolation (23% of non-LGBTQ respondents indicated the same).1

LGBTQ older adults often have thin support networks as they are less likely to have children and more likely to be single and living alone.

How can senior centers better support LGBTQ+ older adults?

Most communities across the country do not have specific LGBTQ older adult programs or community centers. What they do have, though, is a network of senior centers. Senior Centers across the country have answered the call to ensure that older adults had access to home-delivered meals, friendly check-in calls, and vaccines.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, senior centers quickly adapted to virtual programming to help ensure older adults stay engaged with the community. We are grateful for this commitment and the support that continues to be provided by senior centers. 

The specific ways senior centers can better serve the LGBTQ community:

  1. Review organizational policies
  2. Review and update intake forms
  3. Provide staff with cultural competency training
  4. Partner with local LGBTQ organizations
  5. Provide programs promoting LGBTQ inclusion, awareness and acceptance

Learn more about the five strategies and resources your senior center can use to improve your outreach to LGBTQ older adults.

Photo courtesy of Center on Halsted

Sources

1. The Dispoportionate Impacts of COVID-19 on LGBTQ Households in the U.S. Movement Advancement Project. December 2020. Found on the internet at https://www.lgbtmap.org/2020-covid-lgbtq-households