A town hall meeting sponsored by SAGE (Senior Action in a Gay Environment), the Chicago Taskforce on GLBT Aging, and Horizons Community Services' Mature Adult Program last weekend attracted more than 40 people interested in the topic of aging in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
The meeting, held at Horizons, was one of a series of regional meetings being held across the country as part of a national needs assessment project being conducted by SAGE.
The participants included representatives of mainstream organizations which serve seniors, and organizations which serve older people among a general GLBT population.
The discussion was conducted and taped by an independant consultant. Material from this meeting along with that from other cities and a series of 'key informant' interviews, will be part of a SAGE report on what needs exist, what some approaches might be to a national response, and what standards would represent success.
Participants in each city will be asked the same questions in order to compare situations and to establish general themes.
They were asked what initiatives they envisioned for a national movement and to consider the type or types of organizations which could and should shoulder the responsibility on a national scale. While SAGE has chapters in several cities, it is not a national organization and no national organization with this specific focus now exists.
Other questions included the particpants' knowlege of services here reputed to be either sensitive or insensitive to older GLBTs. Answers highlighted the fact that a client might enjoy the services of a health or social-service organization for many years with no need to identify themselves as GLBT, until a specific situation like a hospital stay both forces the coming out and makes the need for sensitivity immediate.
In answer to a question about what networks and services exist here already, participants talked about both gay and mainstream organizations. Mentioned were Horizons Community Services' Mature Adult Program, Chicago 35, Affinity's 40+ group, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), and various mainstream Jewish service organizations which have specific programs or are known to be sensitive.
When asked about needs in Chicago, participants spoke of more awareness of elders in gay organizations and education on the topic in the community, more drop-in centers, opportunities for socializing and networking, gay-friendly alternative living situations, sensitivity training for professionals dealing with older GLBTs, and special outreach initiatives for the most senior who lived most of their years before the era of Stonewall and tend to remain closeted.
Horizons is (773) 472-6469, ext. 245.