Older LGBT Floridians Face Unique Challenges

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equality_florida_smBut various non-profit agencies, including Equality Florida, are working to serve them

Older LGBT Floridians face unique challenges. They are much more likely to live alone than their straight, cisgender counterparts. More of than four in ten who are single say their healthcare providers don’t know their sexual orientation. And one in ten say they’ve experienced discrimination while searching for affordable housing.

These were among the challenges discussed during a recent town hall meeting at The Pride Center at Equality Park in Broward County. The meeting was coordinated by Equality Florida, AARP Florida, SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) and Our Fund, a charitable foundation in Broward County supporting the LGBT community. Panelists presented current resources available to LGBT older adults and listened to community member’s talk about what remains lacking. [pullquote]They are much more likely to live alone than their straight, cisgender counterparts. More of than four in ten who are single say their healthcare providers don’t know their sexual orientation. And one in ten say they’ve experienced discrimination while searching for affordable housing.[/pullquote]

One striking aspect of the discussion was the intergenerational conversation that took place.

Hannah Willard, Equality Florida’s policy and outreach coordinator, spoke of the gratitude that she and others in her 20-something generation feel toward LGBT people born decades earlier.

“We owe you a lifetime of thanks, and we pledge to ensure that all LGBT Floridians are safe, healthy, and thriving throughout their lifetimes,” she told the audience, referring to the improvements in LGBT acceptance and support that older generations helped bring about. After the town hall, several attendees approached her to thank the organizers for the helpfulness of the resources provided and to share their appreciation that this conversation was taking place at all.

Two attorneys—Stephanie Schneider, an elder law specialist in Plantation, and Elizabeth Schwartz, a family law specialist and LGBT advocate in Miami Beach—shared with attendees specific reference points if they or someone they know is being discriminated against in housing or public accommodations. They also walked folks through the importance of conversation before marrying a partner, given the extensive legal implications of marriage. [pullquote]…the Pride Center, provides an essential service to nearly 200 older LGBT people every week. On Tuesdays at 10 a.m., the center hosts a two-hour Coffee & Conversation for LGBT seniors and friends. These gatherings foster community among members of a demographic that is often isolated and lacks social support systems.[/pullquote]

Our Fund’s President and CEO, David Jobin, described “Protecting Our Elders”—a groundbreaking program that trains health care and other service providers with the cultural competency they need to serve LGBT people effectively. The goal is to ensure that services and care take place in a welcoming and discrimination-free environment.

The location of this discussion, the Pride Center, provides an essential service to nearly 200 older LGBT people every week. On Tuesdays at 10 a.m., the center hosts a two-hour Coffee & Conversation for LGBT seniors and friends. These gatherings foster community among members of a demographic that is often isolated and lacks social support systems.

To read SAGE USA’s full report: http://sageusa.org/resources/publications.cfm?ID=214#sthash.RX7sYtJK.dpuf

To learn more about Protecting Our Elders: www.our-fund.org/POE.html

For Stephanie Schneider’s resources: www.fl-elderlaw.com

For Elizabeth Schwartz’s resources: www.sobelaw.com ​

Equality Florida Institute is the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. 

[From a News Release]