Showing posts with label Gay Seniors. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Seniors. Show all posts

October 26, 2019

How Do We Grow Old With HIV


Image result for hiv and getting old
 Picture from poz

This article is part of Telescope: The New AIDS Epidemic, a deep-dive investigation into the modern face of a disease that transformed the world.
LISBON — Luís Mendão remembers a time, in the late 1990s, when he was embarrassed to pick up the phone. 
The Portuguese activist, who was running a restaurant at the time, had been diagnosed with full-blown AIDS and spent months settling his accounts and telling his friends goodbye.
But, a year later, he was still standing. His problem was no longer how to put his affairs in order. It was what to do with the rest of his life.
Nearly a quarter of a century later, Mendão, 61, is one of an increasing number of people who face a challenge that once would have seemed an unthinkable luxury: growing old with HIV. 
 In Portugal alone, some 35,000 people are on life-saving antiretroviral medication — up from 5,000 when Mendão first started treatment. Of the nearly 37 million people infected with HIV worldwide, about one in six have already celebrated their 50th birthday.
This change in the nature of the epidemic — from a death sentence to a disease that must be managed into old age — poses a new challenge in the battle against it. For the vast majority infected with HIV, the problem is no longer about how to keep from dying, it's about how to cope with a virus that they will likely have to manage for the rest of their lives.

Aging with the virus

Mendão touches his chest and then his stomach. He was one of the first reported cases of fat accumulation caused by early antiretroviral treatments in Portugal. The three-drug combination that saved his life also hollowed out his cheekbones and swelled his belly.
“It had all the adverse events that you can imagine,” he says. “But it was also efficient in stopping the replication of the virus, so it was very efficient in keeping me alive.”
Luís Mendão thought he’d received a death sentence when he was diagnosed with
AIDS in the late 1990s. | Alfredo Brant for POLITICO

Researchers and health care systems around the world are just beginning to understand
 what it means to grow old with HIV, as the first cohort of people infected in 
their youth enters the later stages of their lives.
Complications can arise from the effects of the virus and from the medication used to keep it in check, says Eugénio Teófilo, a consultant in internal medicine at the Hospital Dos Capuchos in Lisbon. 
“HIV disease nowadays is a disease of inflammation,” he says. Even when antiretroviral drugs have knocked the virus down to undetectable levels, the body remains under a low-level state of stress.
The inflammation causes problems in people’s cardiovascular systems. “We have more dyslipidemia — increased levels of fat in the blood — in persons with HIV and we have an increased risk of heart problems and even stroke,” he says.
Then there are the long-term side effects of HIV medication. Crixivan, a drug used in the early days of AIDS treatment, gave people huge bellies and humps on the back of their necks. A protein inhibitor, the drug had “huge metabolic impacts,” increasing the cholesterol level in the blood, which could lead to heart attacks, Teófilo says. It was also found to accumulate in the kidney. Another drug, d4T, had the side effect of draining fat from patients’ faces.
Even some of the antiretroviral drugs used to control HIV today can have negative side effects on people’s bones, kidneys and livers, while others interact with drugs people usually take when they get older, such as statins to control cholesterol levels, antidepressants, and cardiovascular medicines, according to a report by the European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG), an advocacy group. 
Many of those living with HIV were not prepared to get old, so in many cases they live more isolated lives, given that they have a disease that was and remains highly stigmatized, says Giulio Maria Corbelli, a member of EATG who was diagnosed with HIV in 1997 and was recently involved in research on aging with HIV.
“The perception that the general population has of HIV is more or less the same as 20 years ago,” he says.
For his part, Mendão has convinced the virus — and the drugs he has taken to fight it — have caused him to age faster. “I have the heart and spine and other things that are more common in people that are 80 than 60,” he says.
There is one good side of getting old with HIV, he adds. He goes to the doctor more often to get checked, so other diseases are diagnosed early.

Death's door

It was a young doctor who haltingly delivered the news of his HIV diagnosis to Mendão. “At the time, it was the youngest one who was sent as punishment to communicate the results to patients, because it was a death sentence,” Mendão recalls.
Mendão had studied biochemistry in France at university, lived briefly in Italy, then returned to Lisbon to run a nightclub with his cousin.
He had used heroin and cocaine when he was young and had, he says, loved both men and women. He liked his male partners younger and his women lovers older, he says with a smile. In retrospect, he thinks he was infected in 1986, during a one-night stand with a man he didn’t know.
By 1996, he had been feeling bad for a couple of years. He shuttled from doctor to doctor and was told he was depressed. It never crossed his mind that he could be infected with HIV.
Those living with AIDS still suffer psychological issues | Florian Schuh/AFP via Getty Images

By September of that year, when his diagnosis came, he was almost in the terminal stage. “My immune system had collapsed,” he says. One of the markers of AIDS is the level of white blood cells that fight infections known as CD4s. Healthy people have between 500 to 1,500 cells per microliter of blood. The commonly accepted threshold for AIDS is 200. Mendão had just two.
At the time, someone in the throes of AIDS could expect to live two to three years, Mendão says. So he figured he had less than a year to live. His first thought was that he’d have to find a way to settle his debts; his restaurant business was not going well.
Then he asked for his notebook and for coins to use the hospital payphone to warn his eight most recent sexual partners — four men and four women — that they could have been infected too. (Their results all came back negative.)

New life

The first months with AIDS were the hardest. His compromised immune system left him vulnerable to pneumonia, skin infections and “worst of all,” an infection that nearly blinded him in his right eye.
“That only happens when AIDS reaches [its] final course,” he says. Treating the eye condition required him to come to the hospital every day, and there was no guarantee it would prevent blindness.
He devised a suicide plan to engineer a car crash that looked like an accident so that his loved ones could cash in on his life insurance. He even picked out the place he would do it.
He started taking the antiretroviral medication in order to buy himself enough time to settle his accounts, visiting one of Portugal’s most respected HIV specialists, Kamal Mansinho. It was an intensive treatment: Mendão took his first pills at 4 a.m. and every two hours until midnight and followed a strict diet.
In Portugal, 35,000 people are on life-saving antiretroviral medication | 
Patricia de Melo Moreira/AFP via Getty Images

Fully expecting to be dead before the end of 1997, he was shocked when Mansinho told him he was “not dying now.”
For Mendão, that wasn’t entirely good news. He had resolved his debts but had no money and no career. He was still sick and half-blind and wondered if he would have enough energy to start something up again.
It was somebody else’s attempt to end her life that turned things around. After the younger sister of a former girlfriend attempted suicide, he invited her to stay with him in Portugal. Soon after they were hiking the 1,000-kilometer Camino de Santiago, a network of old pilgrim routes ending in Spain.
It was a transformative journey. He couldn’t believe what he saw in the mirror when he went to take a shower in his hotel in Santiago, at the end of the hike. “No belly, all muscles. I was never like this in my all life,” he remembers thinking.
He dropped his plans for suicide. “I loved it, and I became more physically fit than ever,” he says. Soon after, he married his walking companion.

Changes in treatment

The transformative effects of antiretroviral drugs has changed the way HIV needs to be tackled, says Teófilo, the consultant in internal medicine at the Hospital Dos Capuchos. “Nowadays I hardly think about HIV.” Nearly all his patients have suppressed the virus with antiretroviral drugs.
Now he’s concerned with monitoring the side effects of the treatment. Modern antiretrovirals no longer have the dramatic effects they did on Mendão, but they can still cause serious health problems in some patients.
Teófilo also focuses on the prevention of other diseases in his patients — something he admits is a new thing for doctors like him, trained to treat diseases rather than preventing them. 
If side effects are serious, patients might decide to stop taking the medicines, which is one of his big concerns, Teófilo says.
“When I think about medication for patients, [I wonder] how I can fit that medication in their lifestyle because it’s hard to have someone change their lifestyle so they can take the medication,” he said.
What hasn’t changed over the past decades is fear of HIV, according to Teófilo. People come asking for PrEP drugs, medicines to prevent them from getting the disease.
Talking with patients, he realized that anxiety is a big motivator, and many aren’t doing well psychologically. “If we try to improve their psychological health, they might not even need PrEP any longer,” he says.

Biggest regret

For Mendão, HIV has become just one of his health concerns. Antiretroviral treatments have improved greatly in the two decades since his diagnosis. To keep the virus in check these days, he takes two pills in the morning and once at night. He also takes 10 other pills for other conditions, such as diabetes and asthma.
Living with HIV remains a big challenge, he says. “You have to give up on too many things: your image, after a certain time your sexuality, your wellbeing, and you feel always tired, you feel always a pain.”
He has built a second career as an activist and now runs Portugal’s Treatment Action Group, a 65-people NGO that advocates for access to treatment for HIV and other diseases and offers testing services in the Lisbon area. In 2015, he received a medal from the Portuguese president for helping the country negotiate a lower price for the first hepatitis C drug that could cure the disease. He was also one of the beneficiaries of this new class of hepatitis C drugs. After a different treatment in 2003 wreaked “horrendous side effects” and nearly killed him, one of the new drugs cured him of the disease in 2015
Mendão has built a successful career as an activist who advocates for access
 to treatment for HIV and other diseases | Alfredo Brant for POLITICO
Mendão says he gave up on sex after he divorced his wife in 2005. With drugs and alcohol also behind him, he has one vice left: smoking. “Otherwise, I would be a saint,” he says. He sometimes jokes with a colleague in a similar situation that they’re immortal. “We are growing old, but we’re condemned to eternal life,” he says with a laugh.
If there was one thing he would change about his life with the virus, it would be the fact that he never had children. “Though I got married when I was 41, I decided that my life expectancy, the burden of disease, was not a good environment for kids,” he says. “Today I regret [this]. This would have been a big difference in my life.”
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June 9, 2018

A Large Part of Senior LGBT's Are On Food Stamps If Trump Bill Passes They Will Go Hungry

Editor’s note: What will the future hold for LGBTQ rights and representation? With this year’s Beyond Pride series, Mic looks forward to see how the radical changes in recent years will continue to transform our culture in the worlds of politics, business, entertainment and more. You can receive all these stories in your inbox by signing up here.
LGBT people are disproportionately food insecure — meaning a larger percentage of this group doesn’t have enough money to feed their family or themselves, relative to the general population. Research from a 2016 report by the Williams Institute found that 27% of LGBT adults — or 2.2 million people — went through a period of food insecurity that year, while a much smaller 17% of non-LGBT adults experienced the same. 
The report also revealed that more than one in four LGB adults participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is still colloquially known as “food stamps.” The program is often misrepresented as giving handouts to freeloaders, and it’s one that President Donald Trump has alluded to as being rife with fraud and laziness. In the Trump administration’s 2018 Farm Bill proposal, which has yet to successfully pass, LGBT people are even further disadvantaged. 

How Trump’s farm bill hurts LGBT people

In regards to SNAP, the new bill would require tighter work requirements for those who receive assistance from the program. More specifically, “it would institute a policy that would require able-bodied adults under the age of 60 without young children to prove monthly that they are working or participating in a work program for 20 total hours each week in order to qualify for assistance, with a month’s buffer between losing a job and sanctions,” the Atlantic reported. 
“People at odds are going to do what they need to do to feed themselves — eating is a part of survival.” — Tyrone Hanley, NCLR 
Expanding work requirements under SNAP doesn’t adequately help people seek jobs, nor does it address the systemic reasons why LGBTQ people have trouble getting work in the first place, Tyrone Hanley, policy counsel at the National Center for Lesbian Rights said in a phone interview. “Employment discrimination is a significant factor that directly contributes to LGBTQ poverty and unemployment rates,” a group of 56 queer and allied organizations, including NCLR, wrote in a letter to Congress opposing the Farm Bill. “Over half of the U.S. population lives in a state without explicit nondiscrimination laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” 
Supporters listen as Rep. Donald McEachin, D-Va., holds a news conference with faith leaders to “urge lawmakers to reject proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the Farm Bill” on Monday, May 7.
Supporters listen as Rep. Donald McEachin, D-Va., holds a news conference with faith leaders to “urge lawmakers to reject proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the Farm Bill” on Monday, May 7.  Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images
These work requirements would increase the likelihood that more LGBT people will be food insecure, Hanley said. Even more, “there’s no question that by limiting the number of people that can access food assistance, more people are going to seek money through the underground economy,” Hanley said, explaining that criminalized work in either the drug trade and the sex trade is more likely to be sought out.  
“People at odds are going to do what they need to do to feed themselves — eating is a part of survival,” he continued. In interviews conducted in New York City with LGBTQ youth, the Urban Institute found that “almost all of those who engaged in survival sex did so in order to make ends meet,” according to a report published by the Social Justice Sexuality Project.  
“SNAP, for a lot of people, is the difference between literally starving and not starving,” Meghan Maury, policy director at The National LGBTQ Task Force, said over the phone. “Putting work requirements [onto SNAP] is shameful to me. I can’t say it another way — I know what it’s like to be hungry. Everyone should have access to the food they need to function.” 
LGBT people are, of course, not the only ones who will be hurt by the proposed bill. Virtually any marginalized group that is disproportionately affected by poverty will be put at a greater disadvantage with the work requirements. LGBT poverty and hunger issues are not often discussed in mainstream media, however, because of “positive stereotypes” that lead people to assume LGBT communities are well off, despite the data that shows otherwise, Hanley said.  “Media portrayals like ‘Will and Grace’ lead the public to believe that all gay people are white, wealthy and doing just fine.” — Meghan Maury 
In reality, LGBT people, particularly women and people of color, face poverty at significantly higher degrees than their non-LGBT counterparts. “I think there’s a myth of gay affluence which still persists,” Maury said. “Media portrayals like Will and Grace lead the public to believe that all gay people are white, wealthy and doing just fine, and what we’re fighting for is cake at our wedding and not basic human rights and human dignity.”
Kate Bratskeir

May 18, 2018

Bias and Bullying in Retirement Homes for LGBT is Another Mountain to Climb

Even before she began searching for senior housing, Marti Smith had heard the horror stories.
Her gay friends told Smith, a lesbian, that when their partners entered assisted living the partners had to hide their homosexuality to avoid bias and bullying. Even Smith's friends had to play along when they visited. 
“Visitors were told not to act gay or dress gay because of fear of harassment when they left,” said Smith, 73. “That’s very common.”
Earlier this month, an Evanston senior living community, the Merion, became the first in the state to achieve the top lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender competency credential from the nonprofit SAGE, a move that reflects a growing awareness of the challenges facing LGBT elders in senior housing. Both locally and nationally, seniors and advocates are calling for more welcoming and supportive housing. “My assessment is we still have a really, really long way to go,” said Britta Larson, senior services director at Chicago’s Center on Halsted, a comprehensive LGBTQ community center.
“Many organizations that serve seniors across Chicago are religiously affiliated, and so right there, out of the gate, you have a huge barrier to overcome. And even if a particular community or denomination is LGBT-friendly from the outside, an LGBT older adult would probably assume that they’re not welcoming.”
The number of LGBT people in the U.S. ages 50 and older is estimated at 2.7 million and is expected to grow dramatically over the next few decades, according to a 2017 report in The Gerontologist.
In senior living communities, LGBT people live side by side with heterosexuals who came of age when homosexuality was considered a mental illness or even a criminal offense. Bullying and discrimination are common, Larson said.
An outspoken older gay Chicagoan told Larson he had ridden the elevator in his senior housing with another resident who objected to the facility’s gay support group, using a gay slur.
“Well, I’m one of them, so you can shut the hell up,” the gay senior shot back. Larson chuckled when she related that response, but she said that for an LGBT person who is less confident, that kind of hostility could be intimidating.
The Merion got involved in LGBT training as an indirect result of a 2016 lawsuit filed by Marsha Wetzel, now 70, against a Niles senior living facility that she said had failed to halt physical and verbal abuse inflicted against her by other residents because she is a lesbian.
Wetzel, whose case against Glen St. Andrew Living Community is now before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, said in an interview that she’s received 150 letters of support, some from as far away as Australia, Iceland and Sweden.
Among those who took notice was Mark Zullo, the director of sales and marketing at the Merion.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he remembers saying to himself when he saw a TV news report about Wetzel, who was attacked from behind, knocked off her scooter and called derogatory names, according to the lawsuit. Zullo set up staff training through SAGE, and he said the response was positive.
“I think the biggest fear was, am I saying the wrong thing?” he said. Training involved case studies and discussions and addressed practical issues. One lesson learned: Asking a senior about his wife signals that you’re assuming he is heterosexual; it’s better to use a neutral term such as partner.
Smith, the senior who heard horror stories about assisted living, is lucky. She landed one of 79 spots at the Town Hall apartments in Boystown, a gay-friendly senior living complex with a 200-person waiting list.
“I cannot tell you how important it is to be a 73-year-old out, card-carrying lesbian where I live,” she said. “I don’t have to worry. We have two social workers who are funded by the center and the residents, and I don’t have to explain things to them.”
Nara SchoenbergChicago Tribune

January 12, 2018

{ Gay and Lonely } LGBT Community Gets Hits Harder As They Age


Loneliness doesn't discriminate. Few people are lucky enough to make it through life without feeling isolated at some point. But there are particular reasons why loneliness is prevalent among the LGBTQ community. Part of realizing you're gay, or bi, or trans, or non-binary, or anything other than cisgender and heterosexual is accepting you’re different—and somewhat separated—from the majority. Many young LGBTQ people hide their authentic selves from friends, family, and classmates before they come out, which is often an incredibly isolating experience.

This sense of isolation can be hard to shake off, and it's also easily triggered. Wherever you live in the world, however big the city, the LGBTQ community is a disparate one featuring myriad different tribes. It isn't always easy to find your niche. Hitting the clubs can be a euphoric experience, but it doesn't necessarily lead to long-term satisfaction. Madonna once sang, "I found myself in crowded rooms, feeling so alone," a sentiment many LGBTQ people can relate to. Indeed, artist Richard Dodwell has recently published an anthology book, Not Here, dedicated to documenting queer loneliness in all its forms.

One person who knows loneliness well is Craig, 33, a school teacher who lives in London. Here he shares his journey to overcome the sense of isolation he felt growing up gay in a small U.K. city in the late '90s.

I guess it started when I was a young teenager. I remember feeling very lonely because no one understood me. At the time, there were no real gay role models except for Graham Norton and Jack from Dawson's Creek—and I certainly didn't identify with him because I wasn't a football player. I had friends but they were all straight and having relationships. This sounds really gross and pervy, but I remember one time we were all hanging out in someone's bedroom and everyone else was making out, doing "couple-y" things. I just sat by myself in front of the TV. I remember feeling very isolated because I had no one to experience any kind of sexuality with. I felt like I was completely on my own.

This carried on until I was 16 when I started going out to gay bars in my hometown. Back then, no one ever asked for an ID. I'd just sit in a corner feeling unbelievably shy and nervy until I'd drunk enough to get up and maybe sit at the bar. But I felt like I had to do this—I had to go out. So I'd wait for a guy to approach me, and it would probably end with me going back to his flat to have sex. There would never be much conversation—some of these guys were in their mid-to-late thirties, so what would we talk about? Looking back at it now, I'm like, "What were they thinking? That's not healthy." But at the time I was oblivious. I had nothing in common with these men because of the age difference but I was desperate to feel something with someone for a short period of time. I was desperate to feel wanted. 

A few years later I moved to a bigger city to study. I made myself move because I knew it would force me to meet new people. I thought otherwise I'd end up stuck on my own. But again, I felt isolated because I was living in student accommodation with five straight guys I didn't identify with. So the behaviors I'd already displayed at home just continued in a different city, with much less parental supervision. I made one gay friend, who I'm actually close to now. But back then, we didn't really talk about things. We didn't really have a proper friendship. We both liked the Spice Girls, and that was enough for me. We'd just go out to bars together and get so drunk that we couldn't remember how we got home. 

During this time, I had a brief dalliance with bulimia. All that happened was I would take a lot of laxatives, and then experience a great deal of pain. But I just felt like I needed to feel something, and I needed to feel in control of how lonely I felt. For me, alcohol was always the biggest problem. When I was 21, my first boyfriend broke up with me and I didn't have any coping mechanisms other than drinking. I just drank myself into oblivion—to the point where I got sacked from my bar job and had to take time off from my studies. I used alcohol for a number of reasons, but it was mainly so I could feel comfortable enough to go out and speak to people and switch off everything going on in my head. I think I drank so I could switch off the loneliness.

Things finally got better when I was in my late twenties. By this time I was living in London and meeting people from different backgrounds and different parts of the world. Moving to a bigger city has been the best thing for me. For the first time, I've been able to form a good group of gay friends and create my own support network. I always thought finding a boyfriend would be a life-changer for me, but it was actually finding people on the same level as me, people with common interests. Lots of them are couples, but I guess that's just the way it is when you get to your late twenties and early thirties.

I really do feel much more comfortable now. But that underlying fear of being alone and lonely, and all the resentment that comes with that, is still very much there. I don't think it ever really goes away. I'm dating someone now but I still have that fear of being left—of someone just walking away and leaving me on my own again. Even though I've got so many positive things in my life—a great career, great friends, a nice boyfriend—it's always at the back of my mind.

The school where I teach has a partnership with an LGBT charity, so I've done work with kids and sexuality and equality. Some of the kids are like, "Why do we still need to do this?" I suppose there's less stigma attached to being queer now and more visibility. Those kids still have to work through the same issues, but there's more of a support network now, and more technology. When I was a teenager, the Internet was still in its very early stages. I'd go on gay chatrooms but that was just a faceless conversation with someone who could have been anyone. It didn't make me feel any better. I just didn't think there was anyone else out there who was like me. I think if I'd had friends who were gay when I was growing up, my life would have been so different. I wouldn't have wasted so many years living the way I did. I now know there were other kids at my school who were gay, but they didn't come out till much later. They must have felt incredibly alone, too.

But looking back, the best thing I ever did was saying how I felt out loud. There were times when I actually said, "I am so lonely, I am so miserable." And even though it only lasted a brief moment, I would feel a sort of sense of relief because I'd admitted how I was feeling. You have to be as honest as you can about feeling lonely. Don’t hold anything back, because that's when the real mental health problems can start.

July 14, 2017

Watch a 78 Yr Old and a 13 Yr Old Discuss Growing Up Gay

Just 50 years ago, homosexuality was illegal in the U.K., and one 78-year-old gay man named Percy lived through this era. In a video from the YouTube channel Trent & Luke called "Young, Gay, and Illegal — Then & Now," he tells a gay 13-year-old named Louis what that was like, Pink News reports.
Percy and Louis have several things in common: Both are in relationships with other men. And both were afraid when they first realized they were gay. "I was confused because I didn't know what it was at first," Louis says in the video. "I never knew there was such a thing as liking boys. I thought it was just me by myself." Once he became sure of it and told his parents, however, they were incredibly supportive.


July 5, 2017

Building a Home for LGBT Seniors in New York City

New York City may be a cradle of gay rights, but for many in the gay community it is still not an easy place to grow old.
Mary Ellen Green can attest to that. Her only refuge is a senior center in Manhattan that serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. She can sit down to a hot meal or settle in with a book without worrying about being harassed by her neighbors.
But when the center closes at night and on weekends, Ms. Green, 61, a freelance writer who is homeless, is on her own again.
Ms. Green could soon have somewhere to go. The operator of the senior center, SAGE, a nonprofit advocacy and service organization, is working with private developers to build New York City’s first subsidized housing for older people like Ms. Green who need a place to live, may face discrimination from their neighbors, or simply want to spend their later years among those they feel most comfortable with. 
While such targeted affordable housing is new to New York City, it has been built in a handful of other cities, including Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, amid a growing recognition that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are more likely to need help as they grow older because many of them are single, have no children and may be estranged from their families. These elders can find themselves isolated in traditional retirement communities or nursing homes, advocates say, and in some cases, may even feel compelled to go back into the closet just to fit in.
A rendering of the Ingersoll Senior Residences, New York City’s first senior housing complex for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. CreditMarvel Architects 
Next month, work will begin on a $78 million apartment building at the Ingersoll Houses, a public-housing project in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, followed in the fall by a $40 million building across from Crotona Park in the Bronx. Both buildings are expected to open in 2019 and will feature SAGE-run senior centers that will also serve the local communities.
“It would answer my prayers,” said Ms. Green, who has been living in church shelters and on the street since March. “We would all look out for each other, be our eyes and ears. I think that understanding and awareness would be there.”
More than 100,000 of New York City’s 1.1 million residents 65 years and older are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, according to SAGE estimates. In recent years, the city has increased funding to expand senior centers and programs for them, but it has struggled to provide living spaces as the city faces an overall shortage of affordable housing.
“This is one place where we’ve been lagging behind, and it’s time to catch up,” said Michael Adams, the chief executive of SAGE.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has called for more affordable senior housing for this population. “Many older L.G.B.T. adults remember the discrimination they faced in housing and other sectors, and they were silenced for far too long,” said Donna Corrado, the commissioner of the Department for the Aging. “The construction of housing for them creates a safe space and support system that allows L.G.B.T. seniors with limited incomes to live with dignity.”
Felicia Holley, 78, said that, as a lesbian, she looked forward to living in the Ingersoll Houses. “You need to have neighbors you can talk to freely,” she said. CreditHiroko Masuike/The New York Times 
Both buildings also aim to serve the homeless at a time when the city’s homeless population has soared. The Bronx building, the Crotona Senior Residences, will set aside 30 percent of its 84 apartments for older people who are homeless. It is the first collaboration between SAGE and HELP USA, a nonprofit that builds and manages homeless shelters and transitional and permanent housing for those who were homeless.
The Brooklyn building, the Ingersoll Senior Residences, will also designate 25 percent of its 145 studio and one-bedroom apartments for the homeless. The building, which is being built on land leased from the New York City Housing Authority, will also give preference for some units to residents in city housing projects.
While fair housing laws require that the buildings be open to anyone who meets the age and income qualifications, they are being heavily marketed to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. The 17-story Brooklyn building, which will have three outdoor terraces, will be the largest gay-friendly affordable housing for seniors in the country, according to the developer, BFC Partners.
“It’s our hope that we end up here with a building that is largely L.G.B.T. seniors or seniors who understand the L.G.B.T. community and are accepting of it,” said Donald A. Capoccia, a founder of BFC Partners.
The buildings will select residents by lottery. Mr. Adams pointed out that in similar affordable housing developments in other cities, between 60 and 90 percent of the units are occupied by L.G.B.T. seniors. “In a sense, it’s a self-selection process,” he said.
Ingersoll Houses, the site of New York City’s first senior housing complex for gay seniors, in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. CreditHiroko Masuike/The New York Times 
Ros Davis, 69, a retired electrician, said that while she liked her neighbors, the new housing would allow her to live around people she had more in common with. “I feel like I could really enjoy myself,” said Ms. Davis, who is a lesbian. “Especially as an L.G.B.T., you want to be around people you can relate to more.”
In turn, some Fort Greene residents said they welcomed their new neighbors. Bebe Saldana, 31, a housekeeper walking by the grassy corner where the building will rise, said that she would like to get to know some of the L.G.B.T. seniors. “They’re people,” she said. “They’re beautiful people at that.”
Deloris Harvin, 69, a retired day care worker, said she planned to check out the building for her 90-year-old uncle, Eugene Robinson, who is not gay. He recently moved in with her because other senior housing buildings had long waiting lists. Referring to the planned building, Mr. Robinson said, “I don’t mind living there.”
The Brooklyn building cannot open soon enough for Felicia Holley, 78, who is a lesbian. Ms. Holley, a retired word processing supervisor on a tight income, had to move in with her younger daughter in the Bronx four years ago because she could not find an apartment she could afford. “It’s not comfortable,” she said.
Ms. Holley has already walked around Fort Greene to see if she would like living there. She said she would.
“You need to have neighbors you can talk to freely,” she said. “When you’re younger, you can always go party out of your neighborhood, but when you’re older, where can you go?”
New York Times

June 2, 2017

Isolation, Bias and Poverty Awaits for Most LGBT Seniors

When people talk about discrimination, it’s unlikely they’re thinking about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. “That’s not where the conversation usually goes,” says Serena Worthington, director of national field initiatives at SAGE (Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders).

Understanding Issues Facing Older LGBT Adults, a report co-authored by SAGE and MAP, the Movement Advancement Project, released May 25, is an effort to shift the conversation by calling attention to the challenges and resilience of an estimated 2.7 million Americans.

Citing economic security, social connections and health and well-being as “cornerstones of successful aging,” it calls for ensuring that those long at the forefront in the fight for equality, fairness and advancement of civil rights are supported as they age.
“We’re so lucky we get to live with legends,” says Heron Greenesmith, senior policy analyst for MAP. “Ours is a young movement and many of the change-makers are still alive.”

The release of the report comes two months after news surfaced that the Trump administration had removed questions about sexual orientation and gender identity from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants (NSOAAP), an annual survey used to determine what services will be provided to older Americans in need.
Administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the survey gathers data from individuals who make use of senior centers and/or receive transportation, homemaker and meal services.

Questions about sexual orientation and gender identity, which had been added in 2014, are reportedly the only ones eliminated from the draft of the 2017 survey. A similar change was made to the Annual Program Performance Report for Centers for Independent Living, another HHS-sponsored survey that impacts some LGBT older Americans. (A Medscape article has cited media reports that a Trump administration official said the LGBT questions were being dropped from the Older Americans Act survey because the inclusion in prior surveys was merely a pilot test and the response was found to be too small to have reliable significance.)

Impact on Vulnerable LGBT Older Adults
The removal of such questions matters greatly, says Roddy Flynn, executive director of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.
“From the surveys that have been done, we know that our LGBT seniors face higher rates of poverty, greater health disparities and have fewer close familial ties and social support systems. It follows that these seniors will need to use OAA (Older Americans Act) programs perhaps at a higher rate than the general population,” he says. But there’s no way of knowing how many LGBT older adults are or are not using such programs if the question is not asked.
Flynn sees MAP’s and SAGE’s report, which aggregates data from other studies, filling a critical gap.
“Data is the first step in good policymaking,” he says. “With the Trump administration abdicating its responsibility to ensure federal programs are reaching older LGBT Americans, it is incredibly useful to have private groups pick up this vital function.”
Differing Needs of Racial Minorities, Transgender Adults
That LGBT older adults are not a monolithic group is one of many important points made by the report’s authors. For example:
Higher levels of LGBT-related discrimination are experienced by LGBT older adults of color, resulting in lower levels of household income, educational attainment, identity affirmation and social support.
Social isolation has an especially acute impact on the health and well-being of older bisexual adults, who are particularly prone to depression.
Health of transgender older adults suffers when they are forced back into the closet due to discrimination or stigma.
And yet, there are commonalities. Overall, physical and mental health disparities remain high among all categories of LGBT older adults, who have experienced discrimination, social stigma, family rejection and the aging and deaths of their support networks.
Lack of ‘Cultural Competence’ in Health Care
Finding competent, inclusive health care is another widely shared experience of LGBT older adults. It’s for that reason that Greenesmith emphasizes the value of the report for medical providers and staffs of residential facilities who are being trained in cultural competence.
Relying on “chosen families” (circles of peers) has proven to be an additional obstacle. Such relationships lack legal recognition required to take time from work, share health insurance plans or make medical decisions. Friend networks also often age simultaneously, “meaning they may not be in the physical or mental condition to care for one another adequately,” the report says.
Given the many forms of discrimination that LGBT elders have endured — in employment, housing, retirement, health care, long-term care and other places of public accommodation — one piece of information that may surprise is the level of optimism reported.
“LGBT adults 65 and older responding to a 2013 survey from Pew Research Center were far less likely to say they were ‘not too happy,’ compared to those under 50 (6% versus 19%),” the SAGE/MAP report says.
Legislative Changes Urged
Many of the recommendations provided meet Greenesmith’s call for “robust anti-discrimination legislation.”
These include:
passing comprehensive employment and housing nondiscrimination protections,
revising federal and state programs to recognize relationships of same-sex couples when one partner died before freedom to marry was the law of the land,
designating LGBT older adults as an underserved population within the Older Americans Act
As a result, legislators and other policymakers, as well as service providers, advocates and members of the aging network, are among those Worthington would like to see read the report. Greenesmith says it’s important, too, that LGBT older adults see themselves and their lives reflected.
If enacted, the policy recommendations in this report would serve a group whom Worthington describes as a “community of giants” — Americans who paved the way for civil rights advances and who are still organizing, making calls and continuing to fight for equal rights.

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