Individuals and communities alike are working across the Commonwealth to better focus on awareness of and access to services for LGBTQ older adults and their caregivers.
The Pennsylvania Department of Aging’s October 2018 LGBTQ Aging Summit was planned to be a catalyst to connect the aging services network with the LGBTQ senior community to help drive many needed changes at the local and state levels to better address the needs of our diverse LGBTQ seniors.
At the summit, Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE (Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders) outlined a number of issues and shared a call to action with this statement, “Recognizing that you are advocates, and that we are all advocates, we must work together to advance the policies that improve the lives of LGBTQ older adults.” Adams went on to outline five key advocacy issues:
Pass the Fairness Act. Currently in Pennsylvania, we have a patchwork of legal protections for LGBT residents rather than a uniform anti-discrimination law. Pennsylvania is the only state in the Northeast without such a law protecting the LGBTQ community. The Fairness Act needs to pass to provide protections across the Commonwealth.
Designate LGBT older adults and those living with HIV as greatest social needs populations in the Older Americans Act. The term “greatest social need” refers to the need caused by noneconomic factors, which can include discrimination, social isolation, disproportionate poverty and health disparities, and a lack of access to culturally competent providers. Being designated “greatest social needs population” would improve access to supports and services, including needed funding.
Provide protections in long term care settings. Pennsylvania can follow the lead of Massachusetts and California in advancing an LGBT Long-Term Care Facility Residents Bill of Rights, which protects people from discrimination on basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and HIV status in long-term care settings.
Require cultural competency training for the Aging Services Network. Pennsylvania can follow the lead of California and Massachusetts to require LGBT cultural-awareness training as part of certification for long-term care providers.
Gather Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Data. Collecting SOGI data is essential to providing high quality, patient-centered care to LGBT people across their lifecycle. We understand that the Department of Aging has the ability to begin to gather data on their funded programs (i.e., through the AAA and LINK networks).
Advocacy in 2019
Advocacy is happening locally with the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs and its Elder Advisory Committee, chaired by Gigi Nikpour. The committee meets monthly and has forged partnership with strong national advocacy organizations such as AARP, SAGE and CARIE (Center for Advocacy for the Rights & Interests of the Elderly). We welcome community advocates to join our efforts to advance the needs of LGBT older adults and their caregivers in Pennsylvania. For more information, please contact Gigi Nikpour via email: [email protected] or the Office of LGBT Affairs at 215-686-0330.