Q: What is the significance of Pride month for older adults?

A: All people deserve an opportunity to age with dignity, free from discrimination, and surrounded by not only the people they love but also by service providers that support their needs. Pride month was created to support this goal of equality for all.

June is proclaimed Pride month each year as a time to recognize and celebrate the LGBT+ community. These initials stand for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender communities. The plus is a reminder that LGBT+ communities are diverse and there are many sexual orientations and genders that make up this growing community.

The month of June was chosen to honor the Stonewall Uprising that occurred in New York City on June 28, 1969, led by transgender women of color and black lesbian women. Stonewall is a key turning point in the history of the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States.

Each year the White House makes a proclamation declaring June as a month to celebrate the achievements of the LGBT+ community and to recognize the strides towards full equality. Communities around the country may hold Pride events. These events most often are parades that serve as a way for people in the LGBT+ community and their allies to join together, be visible and celebrate who they are.

Each year when Pride month is celebrated, we should remember to thank the older adults who fought for equality and against unfair laws and treatment. As people in the LGBT+ community age, they may need to be more dependent on others, and often feel vulnerable to service providers. Many older adults go back “in the closet” and hide their LGBT+ identity when they feel unsure of their safety. In fact, about 40% of LGBT+ people over the age of 60 say their healthcare providers don’t know their sexual orientation.

Because of this concern, in 2015 the LGBT+ Aging Coalition, made up of local organizations and community members, was created to advocate for older LGBT+ adults in Ventura County. The Coalition is now a program of the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging.

They believe that education and awareness foster dignity and respect that yield more welcoming and accessible services that help LGBT+ people thrive as they age in the community.

For this reason, the LGBT+ Aging Coalition created short training videos on how to be an LGBT+ friendly business that can be viewed on their website. Service providers can also request personalized training for their business that works with older adults. You can learn more about this coalition here https://www.vcaaa.org/about-us/advocacy/lgbt-aging/

Older adults that are part of the LGBT+ community have lived through so much discrimination and fear. This personal history will color the way they see the community and the way they assume the community sees them. We must remember this context and allow the month of June to be a true celebration of their contributions and help them feel supported and valued in their community.

Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at mshapiro@seniorconcerns.org.

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