How Gay Elders Can Help Change Eldercare

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Last week we had the screenings and discussions of GenSilent the award-winning documentary that documents issues and discrimination around Gay Elders.  The film was very well done, and at points I had a pit in my stomach listening to the emotional stories depicted in the film.

Good Care for Gay Elders = Good Care for Everyone
One of the individuals featured in the film had moved to several nursing homes, finally settling on one that enabled he and his partner to feel like they could be themselves.  His partner stated that the simple act of putting lotion on his partners hands would have been a much more mechanical and guarded process in the other homes.

I feel that this is not an issue about sexual preferences or who is gay or straight — it’s a defining issue about caring for people.  Would you feel comfortable having your “straight” parent living in a nursing home that you learned discriminated or displayed different care to another resident who is “gay”?  An organization with leadership that focuses on sensitivity to differences is more than likely going to be a better home or care setting for all of us.

A Different View of “Family”
The film also addressed an important issue that I discuss frequently on this blog and in my presentations which is ways that we can bring neighbors and non-family members together to care for each other.  The film addressed the issue of how many Gay Elders can be estranged from their family and how they may not have children to care for them.  The film showed a great example of a community activist building a support network for someone in this situation.

Bridging the Generations
Parts of the film captured the lives of these Gay Elders in the 1950-70s and the issues they fought for.  These are rich important stories that need to be passed on to other generations.  In return, perhaps the younger generations can assist the elders when they need help.  Again, I feel the natural solution is connecting our Gay Elders to students on college campuses like we did at the University of Pennsylvania.

I think this film should be required viewing for everyone who works in eldercare.  In addition, I would like to see viewings and discussions for residents in these settings as well.  I feel that discussions around this topic can raise the bar on how we care for elders and can be great ways to discuss solutions that eliminate reduce age segregation.

Here is what attendees said about GenSilent:

  • Excellent topic. Speech of cast members not always clear/understandable. I found the film to be very touching and sad and it builds an awareness that many of us may not have.
  • This is not a subject that I’d thought about before but is something that should be widely discussed in the community dealing with elder care. how do we get sensitivity training into the living facilities?
  • Prejudice of all kinds is hard to deal with- whether we’re talking about owners/CEOs/staff or facility residents/ attendees (senior centers, etc).
  • I think there should be a zero tolerance policy for prejudicial behavior among staff (after proper orientation & training). I think if staff model acceptance, residents will be more likely to follow.
  • It was thought provoking and interesting.
  • I wish it had gone into greater detail about why multiple nursing homes were necessary before they found the one that was accepting. I didn’t quite understand what the roadblocks had been. Which could have been helpful for greater understanding.
  • I am already initiating an effort to mobilize the LGBT community organizations and their respective Offices on Aging to view the doc and brainstorm appropriate responsess. More education of health care professionals and institutional staff seems warranted.
  • I realize this is off topic, but watching the film made me think (again) about the importance of housing accessibility features.
  • I definitely believe communication is important and hope that tolerance and acceptance in all areas promotes an understanding dialog.
  • This is an area of real passion for me. If you are aware of any employment opportunities, I would be happy to hear of them. I have an MSW and am a retired Fed.
  • When the gentlemen moved his partner to another nursing home, how did he figure out which community would be more gay friendly? Also the film focused on caregiver issues, but the attitudes of residents of communities can be pretty negative towards LGBT neighbors and when you add a touch of dementia can be outright hostile. Anything done in communities to encourage sensitivity among residents?
  • The film was extremely touching and portrayed many of the relevant issues faced by LGBT elders today.
  • This was a moving documentary about a troubling situation. I hope we can develop senior services that are welcoming to all. Really enjoyed this movie!!! I am a Gerentology major at UMUC and had to attend this screening as part of my internship; it really opened my eyes. I would always be grateful for the subject matter presented because it was an area I never thought of. Now I can be more inclusive as I continue my studies and work in this area.
  • The stories presented were heart-breaking for me also. Gen Silent is a very valuable awareness and education tool. We usually tend to mind the young GLBT population. This commendable documentary effectively puts the aging GLBT folks up front and center stage.

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