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In or Out? Giving Voice to LGBTQ Older Adults

Movie Follows LGBTQ Older Adults Deciding Whether to Be Open About Their Sexualities

COLUMBUS — As the total population of people age 65 and older increases throughout the U.S. and Ohio, the cohort of LGBTQ older adults is expanding rapidly. Research has found these older adults experience unique social, health and economic disparities, as documented in “Generations,” the Journal of the American Society on Aging, in its spring 2016 edition, “LGBT Aging.”

In an effort to combat these disparities and assist LGBT older adults facing health and wellness challenges, United Church Homes’ Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging partnered with organizations from throughout Ohio to offer the first “Giving Voice to LGBTQ Older Adults” on April 14 at North Congregational UCC, Columbus.

‘Gen Silent’

The event began with a showing of “Gen Silent,” a documentary by award-winning director and filmmaker Stu Maddux. The film asks six LGBT seniors if they will hide their lives to survive, and their surprising decisions are captured through intimate access to their day-to-day lives over the course of a year in Boston. The film, which premiered in 2009, brings these issues into the open for the first time, showing the wide range in quality of paid caregivers — from those who are specifically trained to make LGBT seniors feel safe to those who discriminate against, neglect or abuse LGBT seniors.

The conference was an exploration of a vital topic that also included workshops on long-term care planning, elder abuse, advocacy and services and spiritual challenges and opportunities for communities.

“The Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging is an education and advocacy center started by United Church Homes in 2016,” said Beth Long-Higgins, executive director. “The goals of the center focus on several initiatives to support United Church Homes’ commitment to abundant aging. This conference was the first of its kind to allow LGBT older adults and allies an opportunity to learn about the unique challenges faced by this population.”

Following the film, a panel reacted to the film. Panelists included Jerry Mallicot, co-founder, Rainbow Elder Care of Dayton; Laura Farrell, administrator, Trinity Community, Beavercreek Ohio, a United Church Homes community ; and Doug Brownfield and Leslye Coles, caregivers.

Workshops were led by Melissa M. Alexander, co-chair of TransOhio; Sylvia M. Pla-Raith, director, Elder Justice Unit, Consumer Protection Section, Ohio Attorney General’s Office; Alexis Simpson, ombudsman specialist; and Long-Higgins.

For more information about the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging, visit abundantaging.org.

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About United Church Homes:  United Church Homes, based in Marion, Ohio, has been “Celebrating the Spirit” of seniors for more than a century. The nonprofit, faith-based organization is one of the nation’s largest providers of senior living services, with more than 1,800 dedicated staff serving nearly 5,000 residents of all faiths in 72 senior living communities throughout 14 states and two Native American nations. UCH is in covenant with the United Church of Christ and welcomes residents of all faiths.

Media Contact: Alissa Paolella, Communications Coordinator, 740.382.4885 or apaolella@uchinc.org

About Alissa Paolella

Alissa Paolella is a lifelong learner and loves aging every day! A journalist for 12 years before moving into nonprofit communications, Alissa holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. She lives in northwest Ohio.

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