The second year of local programs to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) seniors has started, including the launch of the LGBTQI Elder Information & Assistance Program to increase elders’ access to social services for the healthy aging. (LGBTQI = lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, and intersex.)
“We have partnered with Sebastopol Area Senior Center to provide a county-wide LGBTQI specific information and assistance service that will encourage LGBTQI seniors to feel comfortable in identifying their needs and accessing services,” according to Adult & Aging Division Interim Director Gary Fontenot.
Because of experiences of discrimination, LGBT seniors are often uncomfortable sharing who they are or seeking services from agencies that may not understand their concerns or were unsafe to access in the past. That worry makes them less likely to seek the support services they now need for healthy aging.
“Since all our staff members have been trained in LGBTQI concerns and issues,” according to the Center’s Executive Director Linda Civitello, “more LGBT seniors will be comfortable making contact and getting the services needed to improve their lives.” To reach the LGBTQI Elder Information & Assistance Program, please call or email Wayne Wieseler at Sebastopol Area Senior Center at (707) 829-2440, ext. 103. or [email protected].
Given the high senior population in Sonoma County (25% and growing) and data showing that it has the second-highest number of LGBT couples in California (The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law), the LGBTQI Giving Circle Fund of the Community Foundation of Sonoma County and the Sonoma County Human Services Department Adult and Aging Division chose to fund expanded LBGT senior support services again this year.