NextFifty Initiative supports LGBTQ+ older adults

NextFifty Initiative

Only 52 years ago, members of the LGBTQ+ community were violently attacked, harassed and discriminated against as the New York City police raided the gay club, the Stonewall Inn. In the early hours of June 28, 1969, the course of history for LGBTQ+ rights were forever changed as bar patrons and neighborhood activists fought for gay liberation and equality following the raid. This invasion led to a six-day protest that acted as a catalyst for the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States.

Now, the U.S. celebrates the LGBTQ+ community during June, Pride Month, to acknowledge the long and hard-fought battle for equality. Pride Month is the promotion of equal opportunity, visibility and freedom to be yourself. It celebrates the events that have shaped the modern gay rights movement.

For individuals in the U.S. older than 50, they have witnessed changes after the 1969 riot, such as the design of the rainbow flag in 1978 and marriage equality in all 50 states in 2015. Despite the immense progress, nearly 70% of LGBTQ+ older adults have been discriminated against, assaulted or harassed at least once in their lifetime, according to the National Center of Elder Abuse.

NextFifty Initiative supports the LGBTQ+ older adult community by funding organizations to help transform these statistics. Specifically, programs focused on supporting the physical and mental health, economic security and social integration of LGBTQ+ older adults. NextFifty Initiative has awarded grants to several projects focused on providing meaningful strategies to increase socialization, education, conversation and overall health among LGBTQ+ older adults.

LGBTQ+ older adults are twice as likely to be single and live alone, four times less likely to have children to support them and nearly three times more likely to live in poverty than older adult heterosexuals, according to Services and Advocacy for GLBTQ Elders (SAGE). Lacking family or spousal support, many LGBTQ+ older adults are forced into long-term care living. However, approximately 80% of LGBTQ+ older adults feel increasingly vulnerable in these facilities and hide their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to SAGE.

SAGE of the Rockies program, Social Support and Remote Programming for Older LGBTQ+ Adults and Allies During COVID-19, works to increase social connection among older LGBTQ+ adults to provide access to resources they need to thrive independently. Programs include cooking, art and yoga classes and opportunities to socialize with other LGBTQ+ older adults over coffee or lunch.

NextFifty Initiative has funded programs to elevate acceptance and understanding of LGBTQ+ challenges. Healthcare is one of those challenges. LGBTQ+ older adults need to feel comfortable and safe to express their gender identity or sexual orientation in doctors’ offices or long-term care facilities.

LGBTQ+ older adults have a greater rate of disability, depression, alcoholism and drug abuse than older adult heterosexuals, according to the Association of Health Care Journalists. This poses major public health concern as these disparities reflect the social environment and historical framework of their lives. Their health and willingness to seek support can be jeopardized by this adversity and fear of intolerance, according to a professor at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work.

It is critical for LGBTQ+ older adults to feel safe and thrive whether it is in the doctor’s office, workplace, long-term care facility or independently. NextFifty Initiative supports the LGBTQ+ community and funds programs that support the physical, mental and emotional health and social integration of LGBTQ+ older adults.

NextFifty Initiative’s Flexible Support funding opportunity provides funding to organizations seeking to serve older adults and is now accepting applications through July 16, 2021. For more information on NextFifty Initiative and the grantees, visit https://www.next50initiative.org/.

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