Editor’s Note: In the interest of full disclosure, the editor and publisher of OutWire757 fully support and are actively assisting the effort to establish an LGBTQ elder advocacy group in Hampton Roads.
Efforts to form a local group that will advocate, inform and bring together LGBTQ elders is gaining momentum with the recent formation of the Silver Rainbow LGBTQ Club of Hampton Roads.
Leading this effort is longtime Norfolk resident Allyson Graul. Recently retired from running Alternatives, a Hampton-based youth non-profit, Graul’s has experience with advocacy and understands the needs of the elderly after caring for aging parents. Her parent’s experiences caused her to think of her own future, especially for members of the LGBTQ community.
“Who’s going to take care of us when we get older? Who is going to advocate for us if we end up in a nursing home?” Graul said.
Graul also noted that she feels isolation is a primary issue, which is backed up by statistics provided by SAGE, the nation’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ elders.
According to SAGE, as our community ages, we face the following issues that have been borne out of decades of discrimination:
- 50% feel isolated;
- 1/3 live below the poverty line;
- 35% aren’t out to their doctors;
- 2x as many report depressive symptoms vs. their non-LGBT peers;
- 1/2 of people living with HIV are over 50;
- 20% avoid medical care out of fear of discrimination;
“The isolation for gay people is going to be more so because many of us do not have kids for the most part, especially older members of the community,” stated Graul
As someone that spent her career working with young people, she observes that the LGBTQ community seems fragmented by age and sees the Silver Rainbow Club as a way to bridge this age gap.
“The other interest I have personally has to do with bringing generations together…I worked with young people for forty years and I think it would be enriching for young people as well as older people to figure out ways to get younger people to support older people,”
“Everyone needs compassion and companionship as they age. LGBT elders face unique challenges. They are twice as likely as their heterosexual peers to be single and live alone, and four times less likely to have children to care for them,” said SAGE CEO Michael Adams in a recent press release.
One of the first tasks for the Silver Rainbow LGBTQ Club of Hampton Roads is to engage with interested people, find out what issues are most important to them, services that are needed in the community. To kick off this effort, the Silver Rainbow Club has created a presence on social media and is preparing a survey that will culminate at the group’s first social event/organizational happy hour to be held on September 29, from 2-4 p.m. on the second floor of the Brick Anchor Brew Pub in downtown Norfolk.
If you are interested in learning more about this group, you may request to join the SIlver Rainbow LGBTQ Club of Hampton Roads on Facebook, email the organizers at email@example.com or make plans to attend their inaugural event (details provided below).