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Summit To Consider Needs Of Aging LGBTQ Pennsylvanians

Carolyn Kaster
Marchers unfurl a huge rainbow flag as they prepare to march in the Equality March for Unity and Pride in Washington, Sunday, June 11, 2017.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Aging is working to better understand the needs of older LGBTQ residents.

It has held sessions to train and improve the cultural understanding of LGBTQ older adults for aging service providers, and the Inaugural LGBTQ Aging Summit will be held in Harrisburg this fall.

“We intend for this summit to serve as the catalyst to connect the aging services network directly with the LGBTQ senior community so that together we can help drive much needed change to better serve this population,” said Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne in a release.  

It’s a population which faces a lot of barriers to aging care, said David Griffith, director of programs and outreach for the LGBT Elder Initiative in Philadelphia. He said these individuals grew up in an era where same-sex marriage wasn’t legal and there were restrictions on adoption, which could increase the odds of LGBT seniors living alone and not having children to help them navigate or provide care.

“There’s a greater reliance on these formal systems of care, home care aids coming into your home, having to go into an assisted living facility because there aren’t people to care for you in your home environment,” said Griffith.

He said there can also be resistance from the community to seek that type of care.

“LGBT older adults have in many cases experienced a lot of discrimination throughout their lives so maybe are more distrustful of social services system, the healthcare system,” said Griffith.

He says many healthcare providers don’t receive LGBTQ-specific training, such as tailoring care for hard to reach groups. The aging summit aims to provide more education on outreach and cultural competency for providers, and connect them directly to the community.

The summit will be held October 9-10 in Harrisburg.