THE SENIOR CORNER – JIM MEADOWS 5/11/2018
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it (or said it) a hundred times: “Young people have no respect for their elders these days.” You don’t have to spend much time searching Google to see criticism of Millennials. And YouTube star Davey Wavey had some very harsh criticism of gay youth in one of his most-watched videos. But while ageism in our community is no doubt still a problem, many young people are going the extra mile to express their gratitude and care for LGBT older adults.
As part of their service learning requirement, each student in Dr. Krystal Cleary’s “Identity, Difference, and Social Inequality” class at Tulane University volunteered hours of their time helping NOAGE build a resource guide for LGBT older adults. Many of our elders have experienced a very long history of mistreatment by healthcare and other service providers. For that reason, they are more likely to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity than their younger counterparts. By identifying providers who are LGBT-friendly, NOAGE will be better equipped to provide referrals for older adults who are afraid of being turned away or treated poorly.
Each student called dozens of local providers, asking two questions: 1) “Are you LGBT friendly?” and 2) “Would you like a cultural competency training for your staff?” While most providers gave positive and welcoming responses, there were more than a few exceptions. One student wrote of their experience: “In class we read about the intersection of sexuality and age and how healthcare services are a huge problem for the older LGBT community. Calling healthcare centers…that had no idea if they were LGBT friendly, or worse, just hung up on me, allowed me to witness what we read about.” One staff person at a very prominent local hospital who answered the phone gave a resounding “NO!” when asked if the facility was LGBT friendly.
The students heard those types of negative responses from providers so that local LGBT older adults won’t have to. They were exposed to same of the type discrimination and disdain that LGBT people have experienced their entire lives, and that has been a powerful experience for them: “Making these phone calls gave me a glimpse at the discrimination faced by LGBT people, and I am pleased that I could make a small contribution to help them feel safe.”
If these inspiring young students’ kindness, compassion, and dedicated service work aren’t encouraging, I don’t know what is!
NOAGE will publish the resource guide for local LGBT older adults by the end of 2018.