Including myself until recently, most of the us in the younger generations of queer people have a preconceived notion about their elders. Often times I think we forget the history and battles LGBTQ+ seniors fought for our community, from the AIDS epidemic to Stone Wall they have had to stand up and fight for our rights at a point in time when no one else would but instead of getting the recognition they deserve, most seniors in the community find themselves going back into the closet.
In a study conducted by SAGE in 2019 (an advocacy group for LGBTQ+ seniors) it states a few shocking statistics, merely 8% of senior housing facilities offer specific services targeted toward the LGBTQ+ community as well as 20% of LGBTQ+ elders surveyed, report that they would have no one to call in a time of crisis (that's 10X higher than the general elderly population). If you’re like me, you must be asking “why?” why would the generation of queer people who initiated the entire pride movement be forgotten?
Let’s start by looking at the mental and physical health differences, it’s a known fact that members of the queer community are at higher risk of certain cancers due to a lack of affordable testing as well as a lack of medical care to the community as a whole. It is to no surprise that these concerns are often overlooked by health care providers, as most queer seniors report that they are uncomfortable teaching their health care providers how to take care of their specific needs but, this isn’t where it ends. The older generations in any community have a much more “traditional” belief system, homophobia is much more common in most senior communities making it difficult for queer people to be open about their sexuality from the beginning.
Due to these specific oppressive conditions its often much easier for LGBTQ+ people in senior communities to live the remainder of their years in the closet and, many may end up with a shortened life span because of this lack of essential care.
How can we combat this? I think as LGBTQ+ youth we need to reform our mindset on the older generations. They are not all creepy, or all trying to hit on you and as a younger gay person, I have had many conversations with older members of the community
and I think the stories they hold and lessons they teach are among the most valuable, especially to a younger queer person still trying to figure themselves out. So as a suggestion for all of you, seek out older member of the community and talk to them. As they fought for the path we are on and it’s time we show our gratitude and take care of their needs in return.