Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Us Old Queers

The typical image of a member of the gay community is some well-built and well-off twenty-something, but as this article in the New York Times points out, the gay community — like everyone — has problems as it ages, and it also still faces the prejudices and bigotry that confront gays and lesbians of all ages.

The plight of the gay elderly has been taken up by a generation of gay men and lesbians, concerned about their own futures, who have begun a national drive to educate care providers about the social isolation, even outright discrimination, that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender clients face.

Several solutions are emerging. In Boston, New York, Chicago, Atlanta and other urban centers, so-called L.G.B.T. Aging Projects are springing up, to train long-term care providers. At the same time, there is a move to separate care, with the comfort of the familiar.

In the Boston suburbs, the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home will break ground in December for a complex that includes a unit for the gay and lesbian elderly. And Stonewall Communities in Boston has begun selling homes designed for older gay people with support services similar to assisted-living centers. There are also openly gay geriatric case managers who can guide clients to compassionate services.

[…]

The movement to improve conditions for the gay elderly is driven by demographics. There are an estimated 2.4 million gay, lesbian or bisexual Americans over the age of 55, said Gary Gates, a senior research fellow at the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. That estimate was extrapolated by Dr. Gates using census data that counts only same-sex couples along with other government data that counts both single and coupled gay people. Among those in same-sex couples, the number of gay men and women over 55 has almost doubled from 2000 to 2006, Dr. Gates said, to 416,000, from 222,000.

I used to joke with my friends that we should open up an old-age home for queers — call it something like The Homo Ranch or something and have fun “interviewing” the young and strong guys who applied for jobs on staff — but now that I’m 55 and single, it is more the reality that a lot of us who came out in the 1970’s are facing the same issues as our elders.