Studies predict that by 2030, there will be more than 5 million adults living in the United States who are over age 50 and identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT.) This population faces specific and significant challenges — social isolation and loneliness, higher risks of economic and physical disparities than their cisgender or heterosexual peers, and marginalization in this healthcare and social service systems — but their struggles are frequently sidelined. Not, however, on March 2, 2017, when the LGBT Social Science & Policy Center (LGBTSSPC) at Roosevelt House devoted a full day Research-to-Policy symposia to aging, anchored by the work of Professor Nancy Giunta, board member and director of Silberman Aging. Professor Giunta’s research focuses on interventions to address service access inequities in older adults and the people who care for them, and the day’s symposia covered a variety of topics related to the concerns surrounding aging in the LGBT community.
Opened by Elizabeth Payne, interim director of the LGBT Social Science & Policy Center, the day consisted of four panels, each followed by a coffee break during which participants could mingle, review the ideas that had just been shared, and generate questions and suggestions for discussion later in the day. The first session, Assessing the Policy Landscape for Healthy LGBT Older Adults, was moderated by Professor Katharine Bloeser, whose research focuses on veterans and intersectionality, and included representatives from a number of organizations working at both the federal and local level. These experts presented a collective portrait of the progress towards protecting and including LGBT people that was made during the Obama-Biden administration, and the policies that are currently in jeopardy or in need of reexamination.
The second panel, Creating LGBT Aging Friendly Communities, brought together researchers and policy makers to provide perspectives on stigmas within and around the LGBT population, the legacy of the LGBT crusade for equal rights, and the resources that are required to support older adults, economically, socially, and medically. The final panel, moderated by Professor Daniel Gardner, zeroed in on the areas of greatest difficulty, Addressing the Needs of the Most Vulnerable LGBT Elders: Risks and Resilience. These speakers shared their experiences with LGBT minorities, a growing population prone to extreme isolation, as well as substance abuse and the rising rates of HIV for older LGBT people.
The LGBTSSPC was founded in 2008 and moved into its own dedicated space at Casa Lally in 2016. It continues to work closely with Roosevelt House, just two blocks away, to serve as an interdisciplinary resource for the LGBT community. The Center strives to promote LGBTQ social, health, and political equity, building bridges between academic researchers, policy makers, and practitioners. Events like the March 2 symposium create opportunities for dialogue and collaboration between experts whose work is closely linked, but who might not otherwise meet. Through these connections, the Center can help translate research into tangible, applied results – and, hopefully, a transformed future for older LGBT adults, and the entire LGBT community.
For more pictures from the event, click here.