Getting older can be a difficult experience for anyone. For LGBT seniors, the health and financial challenges faced by the average person are often compounded by other hurdles: a shrinking support network, estrangement from family, and fear of being mistreated by prejudiced healthcare providers or social workers. All too often, our elders are left to fend for themselves. In an effort to support this vulnerable population, The Massachusetts Commission on LGBT Aging was created as the first statewide commission in the country focused on meeting the unique needs of LGBT senior citizens. Founded in 2013, the Commission is made up of LGBT advocates, health and wellness professionals, and elder care experts from across the Bay State.
Several Fenway Health staff members serve on the Commission, lending their valuable expertise and insight to the conversation around LGBT aging. Dr. Sean Cahill, Director of Health Policy Research at The Fenway Institute, continues to serve in the role of Commissioner. Dr. Judy Bradford, Co-Chair of The Fenway Institute, also brings her knowledge to the Committee, along with Lisa Krinksy, Director of the LGBT Aging Project at Fenway.
This past fall, the Commission released a groundbreaking report on the state of LGBT seniors in Massachusetts and recommended policy reforms that could greatly improve quality of life for elders who have already weathered decades of discrimination. In the report, the Commission recommended changes in long-term support services, housing, public health, senior centers and community engagement, and legal considerations. It addressed the challenges LGBT seniors face when trying to access affordable housing, finding culturally competent assisted living and nursing home accommodations, and the intense social isolation experienced by many LGBT seniors who live alone and are estranged from their families of origin.
The Commission works hard to give a voice to those who struggle to be heard. The report’s recommendations are the result of four listening sessions that were held across the state, which gave seniors, care givers, family members, and others invested in LGBT aging a chance to discuss what can be done on a state level to assure that this population is able to age with dignity.
With the Legislature firmly behind the report’s recommendations and the Commission’s overall mission, 2016 is shaping up to be an exciting year for LGBT seniors and their supporters in Massachusetts. We’d like to thank Dr. Cahill, Dr. Bradford, and Lisa Krinsky for their tireless work on the Commission on behalf of Fenway Health.
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