THE SENIOR CORNER - JIM MEADOWS 1/12/2018
Happy New Year! It's hard to believe, but 2018 is already upon us, and maybe you're starting to think about New Year's Resolutions. Too often, that phrase gets us thinking about ways we haven't quite measured up somehow. Have no fear; there are no diet tips here! I believe we're better served by adding new, fun things to our lives than by beating ourselves up. And broadening your social circle is one of the best things you can do for your mental, physical, and spiritual health.
Research has suggested that the health risks of social isolation and loneliness are comparable to or even greater than those brought on by obesity, physical inactivity, violence, and substance abuse. According to a 2015 meta-analysis, social isolation, loneliness, and living alone increase the likelihood of death by about 30%. And SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) reports that LGBT older adults are more likely to live alone, to be single and childless, and to be estranged from their biological families than their straight and cisgender peers.
So what can we do about it? For many LGBT people, bars have long been the first thing we think of when looking for a place to socialize, but there are a lot more options out there. Here are six:
1) Get the Party Started. The simplest solution may be the one nearest at hand: Dig out your old black book. If you've fallen out of touch with friends and are feeling lonelier for having done so, chances are that some of them feel the same way. Why not throw a Mardi Gras party to get everybody (re)acquainted?
2) Volunteer. You've been talking about doing this for years. 2018 is the year to follow through! Volunteer work is number one on my list of the best ways to bring some great new people into your life. There are a number of LGBT organizations that could definitely use your help: NOAGE, PFLAG, and the LGBT Community Center of New Orleans are just a few. However, there are countless worthy causes that could use your help. The best resource I've found is VolunteerMatch. You can search by location and by the type of organizations you'd like to help. I really can't recommend this enough.
3) Meet-Up Groups. Common interests make for the best of friends. Whether you're looking for a book club, a discussion group, or a cooking class, there's almost certainly a meet-up group for that near you. Check out MeetUp.com to find the one you're looking for.
4) Take a Class. The New Orleans Lifelong Learning Cooperative (NOLLC) is a life-long learning community offering cultural and educational enrichment through classes and discussion groups. To find out more about their offerings, email email@example.com, or click here to subscribe to their newsletter.
5) Join a Team. Stonewall Sports is a community-based LGBTQIA non-profit sports organization. They host several sports leagues in New Orleans, including kickball, volleyball, and dodgeball (shout-out to the Dirty Dianas!). Getting involved with a sports team is a great way to meet new friends and to have fun while getting in shape. (Be sure to check with your physician before starting any type of fitness program.)
6) NOAGE Events. NOAGE has regular social events for LGBT older adults and their allies, including Coffee Talks, Movie Nights, a Potluck Club, and more. The best way to stay informed about NOAGE events is to subscribe to our newsletter. To subscribe, click HERE and scroll down until you see the subscribe box or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find out about our events on Facebook.
If you'd like to try some of the above ideas out, but just aren't able to get out of the house for one reason or another, we've got volunteers who would love to come visit you. Our number is (504)517-2345. It might seem like you're alone, but it doesn't have to be that way. Please don't hesitate to reach out to us.
I hope some of these ideas have got you excited for some of the good things - and good friends - that this year can bring to you. May 2018 be your best year ever!
THE SENIOR CORNER - JIM MEADOWS 12/10/2017
Everybody loves imagining all the fun they will have during their first year of retirement, but nobody wants to think about what comes later. Let’s face it: the thought of eventually being in a nursing home isn’t exactly daydream material. For LGBT people, the anxieties around that possibility are even stronger. It’s time we confront our fears head-on, and the first step is looking at some of the facts. Some of them are stark, but bear with me. I promise it gets better by the end!
The average cost for retirees is $40,938 per year. The stereotype of gay people being rich notwithstanding, LGBT elders are more likely to live in poverty than their straight and cisgender peers. They are more likely to live alone, and more likely to feel isolated. The primary caretakers for most older adults tend to be their children, but LGBT people are less likely to have them, and there’s less social pressure on friends to become caretakers. For those reasons, LGBT elders may be more likely to rely on nursing homes for their long-term care.
The majority of LGBT elders feel that they cannot be open with the staff of long-term care facilities about their sexual orientation or gender identity. They report verbal and even physical harassment by their peers and staff in nursing homes. Others report refusal of admission, abrupt discharge, restriction of visitors, intentional misgendering, and even denial of basic care. A matched-pair study found that nearly half of self-identified lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults who enquirer about admission to senior housing communities “experienced unfavorable differential treatment in terms of availability of housing, pricing, financial incentives, amenities, or application requirements.”
Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, I’m going to give you a suggestion that’s going to have you humming “Thank You for Being a Friend” by the end of this article. A way to mitigate – or even completely avoid – all the above problems has been right under our noses since 1985. You guessed it: Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and Sofia enjoyed the kind of retirement most people only dream of. Split living expenses, great social support, funny friends who make chicken soup and sit with you at your sick bed, and even some hot date nights. The Golden Girls knew that shared housing is the way to go for those who can find the right roommates.
You may already have the perfect combination of your friends for this setup in mind. Or maybe your social support system needs an overhaul. New Orleans Advocates for GLBT Elders (NOAGE) provides regular social events for LGBT older adults – and their allies of all ages – including Coffee Talks, Movie Nights, a Potluck Club, and more that will be starting very soon. These events are the perfect way to meet new friends, and start building your social network.
Start a conversation with your friends about the idea of shared housing in your Golden Years. Find out who might be interested, and then start thinking about the when, where, and how of it. What age do you all plan to retire? Is there a part of town you all could agree to live in? What would be your shared expenses and budget? Those are just some of the questions you can start answering together now.
Assume that you and your friends will need a hired caretaker at least some of the time. Even with healthy friends or family around, there may be times when you need extra help. Reach out to an elder care home service provider like Home Instead to find out about the kind of services you might need and the costs involved.
NOAGE is working to educate local healthcare providers on the unique needs of LGBT older adults. We’ve trained several hundred healthcare professionals since the launch of our LGBT Elders Provider Network this past January. On December 2nd, we partnered with Ochsner Pride to host a day-long Symposium on LGBT Health and Aging that was well attended and very well-received by the healthcare professionals who attended. But we still have a lot of work to do, and most of the long-term care facilities in New Orleans are very much in need of LGBT cultural competency training. (If you’re in a position to help us get a foot in the door of any local long-term care facilities, please email us at email@example.com.)
In the meantime, start reaching out to your BFFs now to plan a get-together to start working out a plan that will work for all of you. Don’t forget the cheesecake!