Special Section on LGBT Aging: How do you want to grow older?

    Many of us prefer not to think about getting old, instead trying to preserve our youth and fight the natural aging process at every step of the way. But the fact is that all of us are aging, and if we are fortunate enough to live long lives, we will some day need to receive services from the network of aging-services professionals and health-care providers who care for older adults.

    To ensure the highest level of care is available when we need it, it is imperative these professionals have the knowledge, training and cultural sensitivity to serve LGBT elders. LGBT people should be able to access the vital programs and services at senior centers, without the fear of discrimination. We should have access to a provider network that has received cultural-competence training around LGBT issues. Our experiences and needs should be taken into account when politicians and aging-services administrators make decisions about funding and service delivery. If we need hospice or palliative-care services, those providers should be sensitive to our needs, identities and family dynamics.

    Fortunately, great work is currently underway within the field of aging to improve the ways that the aging-services network is meeting the needs of LGBT older adults. There are plenty of success stories of agencies completing cultural-competence trainings, developing LGBT-inclusive programming and launching new initiatives to better reach LGBT communities. The knowledge and awareness of LGBT aging has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years.

    Yet, more work is needed to ensure that LGBT people are able to access resources and services that are welcoming, affirming and culturally sensitive to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Navigating the aging-services network can already feel overwhelming to many older adults. It shouldn’t be made more challenging by the presence of discrimination.

    On Nov. 3, the LGBT Elder Initiative will join with Jefferson Health and community partners to present the 2016 LGBT Elder Summit, “Caring for our Community: Building Cultural Competence in Aging Services and Healthcare.” The Summit will bring together community members, aging-services providers, policymakers, medical providers and thought leaders in the field of aging to explore the current state of LGBT aging and the importance of culturally competent, inclusive and welcoming services for LGBT populations. This event will provide an opportunity to celebrate the progress that has been made since the 2010 LGBT Elder Summit, which led to the formation of the LGBT Elder Initiative, and to look ahead to the future of LGBT aging in the region.

    The LGBT Elder Initiative is proud to present this Special Section on LGBT Aging, highlighting some of the great work that is currently underway in the field of aging as well as some of the steps that still need to take place. We thank PGN for their attention to this important issue, and for providing an avenue to further educate about the needs facing our older-adult communities. We also extend deep thanks to AARP, Action Wellness, the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE), Center in the Park and Penn Medicine for contributing content to this Special Section.

    David Griffith is the director of programs and outreach for the LGBT Elder Initiative. He can be reached at [email protected] To learn more about the LGBT Elder Initiative, visit www.lgbtelderinitiative.org