After four years, LGBTQ Aging Summit to return virtually

The LGBTQ Aging Summit and Institute on HIV and Aging, which features resources for LGBTQ older adults to live healthy lives and education for allies and service providers to further support LGBTQ communities, is set to take place virtually on October 6 and 7. The event is hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging in partnership with other organizations including the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs, Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE), AARP Pennsylvania, Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of Elders (CARIE), the Elder Initiative at William Way LGBT Community Center, Bradbury Sullivan LGBT Center, and others. 

“We want to ensure that this summit speaks to LGBTQ older adults who attend,” said Stephanie Cole, special assistant to the Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging and one of the main organizers of the summit. “We also want it to speak to people who are providers of aging services.” 

The Aging Summit formed out of advocacy efforts by Heshie Zinman and David Griffith, both from the LGBT Elder Initiative at William Way. Zinman and Griffith connected with the former secretary of Aging at the state Department of Aging, who pushed the department to do more advocacy work for the LGBTQ community. The first LGBTQ Aging Summit took place in 2018 and returns again this year.

“The 2018 LGBTQ Aging Summit built tremendous momentum for LGBTQ aging issues in the commonwealth, and it’s been amazing to see the progress made over the past four years to improve services for our LGBTQ communities as we age,” Zinman said in a press release. “We are excited for the 2022 Summit and HIV & Aging Institute as opportunities to reconvene aging services providers and LGBTQ older Pennsylvanians to share ideas and resources that will help us to thrive as we grow older.”

John-Paul Hayworth, LGBTQ+ audience strategy director for AARP, who will be a panelist at the summit, cited data from the Movement Advancement Project showing that over 2.4 million LGBT adults over 50 years of age live in the U.S. That number is projected to reach over 5 million by 2030. 

“AARP’s Dignity 2022 report demonstrated a number of concerns facing the LGBTQ+ 50+ community, including feelings of isolation and concerns about caregiving,” Hayworth said in an email. “AARP is committed to being a Wise Friend and Fierce Defender of the LGBTQ+ community in Pennsylvania and nationwide.”

On the subject of social isolation among LGBTQ older adults, Cole said, “social isolation is a determinant — it can have mental health and physical health outcomes for people.” 

SAGE CEO Michael Adams will give the keynote speech at this year’s summit, which will also feature a panel discussion on elder equity that includes real-life scenarios that LGBTQ older adults have experienced; working sessions with two individual tracks on community issues and how to support LGBTQ older adults; and an overview of the Pennsylvania LGBTQ Health Needs Assessment results.

The first track of the working sessions is designed for those who are relatively new to concerns around LGBTQ aging. “It will be more of a listen and learn mode so that they can learn about supporting transgender older adults, about how to build supportive communities for LGBTQ older adults of color,” Cole said.

The second track includes interactive sessions on community collaboration designed for LGBTQ community members and providers who already have experience with the issues that elders tend to encounter. Sessions will include discussions of the issues, but also ways of utilizing one’s knowledge to further advocate for the community. 

For example, the first topic will focus on how people can share their story as an LGBTQ older adult. Then, the facilitators will discuss how to use that story to do advocacy work, and how providers or allies can use the stories of elders, with their permission, to do the same.

“That’s helpful for advocates who work at aging services providers to connect them to community members who might be willing to be part of advisory councils, boards and commissions,” Cole said. 

The second day of the summit will center on older adults who are living with HIV and will feature a panel of speakers who will talk about their experiences living with HIV, trends in research on HIV and aging, and how to navigate the legal aspects of HIV care in Pennsylvania.

“AARP has long been a strong advocate for access to healthcare that allows our 50+ population, no matter their circumstance or situation, to choose the way they age,” Hayworth said. 

2020 data from the Pa. Department of Aging show that 11,691 people, or 29.3% of the state population ages 55 to 65, were living with HIV, 450 of whom are transgender. In the same year, 5,347 people, or 13.4% of the population over the age of 65 were living with HIV. 

“We know that there’s already a stigma attached to people who are living with HIV,” Cole said. “If you couple that onto the ageist attitudes in our society and then couple those onto someone who’s experienced racism, classism, sexism – it can be a lot for an older adult to navigate.”

For more information about the summit, click here.

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Michele Zipkin is a staff writer for Philadelphia Gay News, where she reports on issues including LGBTQ youth issues, housing insecurity, healthcare, city government and advocacy organizations, and events. Her work has been recognized by the Keystone Media Awards, Society of Professional Journalists, National Newspaper Association, and more. She received her BA from Goucher College and her MA in journalism from Temple University. She has been on staff with PGN since January 2020 and previously worked as a freelancer.