News | Senior LGBT

NYT Looks at the Plight of the Gay Elderly

Elderly gay people are at risk of neglect due to homophobia and many experience discrimination and abuse with no one there to defend or assist them. The New York Times today looks at the growing number of advocacy programs for the gay elderly and tells their stories, some of which can be heartbreaking:

Riley_dufour"In one nursing home, an openly gay man, without family or friends, was recently moved off his floor to quiet the protests of other residents and their families. He was given a room among patients with severe disabilities or dementia. The home called upon Amber Hollibaugh, now a senior strategist at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the author of the first training curriculum for nursing homes. Ms. Hollibaugh assured the 79-year-old man that a more humane solution would be found, but he hanged himself, Ms. Hollibaugh said."

They also take a multimedia look at Emile Dufour, 70 and Fred Riley, 75, (pictured) together for 20 years, and married in 2004, and the fear that clouds their future:

"The pair have been together for two decades and married in 2004. But their default position, should they need nursing care, will be to hide their gayness, as they did for half a lifetime, rather than face slurs and whispers. 'As strong as I am today,' Mr. Riley said, 'when I’m at the gate of the nursing home, the closet door is going to slam shut behind me.'"

Aging and Gay, and Facing Prejudice in Twilight [nyt]

And here's a resource:
S.A.G.E. (Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders) [official website]

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Comments

  1. This really troubles me. We need to take care of our elderly. Does anyone know of any outreach groups or charities that benefit elderly gay people?

    Posted by: Jeff | Oct 9, 2007 10:17:27 AM


  2. I agree. We must take care of our elderly.

    With all of the disposable income that gays have vs straights, one would think at least a greedy person would see the great capitalist venture a gay friendly assisted living facility would be. In the end They are money making ventures after all.

    Posted by: jimmyboyo | Oct 9, 2007 10:42:57 AM


  3. Unspoken problem. It reminds me of other groups within the gay commnunity who are marginalized.

    Sometimes some visitors have criticized Towleroad posters for not speaking up on issues that are serious and important like this one. The answer is we often have nothing to say.

    I've seen senior gay people at certain gay events (Prides, street festivals, gay bingo) who seem to do pretty well, but I knew this was a unspoken problem. There is prejudice against gay seniors within the "youth orientd" gay community. And I aint talkin' about our making wisecracks about Ian McKlellan and Tom Ford appearing nude--that aint what this is about... seniors' sexuality is for seniors to figure out. It's about respect and dignity toward the end of our lives. I'll be fifty in a few months, and yet I'm too pessimistic to add anything of value here, sorry.

    Posted by: Derrick from PHilly | Oct 9, 2007 10:50:24 AM


  4. Ugh - this shreds my heart.

    I'd be interested in knowing about groups that are attempting to address this issue.

    Story for you: went on Atlantis Med cruise in Aug. Was sick on the boat (me and half the ship) when we got to Santorini but roommate went ashore. There was this really old and frail man on the cruise - and when my roommate got back to the gondolas to take them down the mountain, he was there. He had gotten separated form his companion and looked to be in pretty bad shape from the sun and heat. The gym-girl sissies in line behind him (you bitches know who you are) walked right by him as if he didn't exist. My roomate stayed with him until his friend arrived. He could have died right there and those faggots would have just stepped over his body. Remember: God don't like ugly!
    Is this what I have to look forward to?

    Posted by: shane | Oct 9, 2007 11:01:50 AM


  5. proud to say i just started a masters program in the management of aging services. one incredibly competent guy, a brilliant lesbian, and myself are all VERY intent on working towards creating affordable senior housing for our community. there are facilities out there. there will be more.

    Posted by: nate in baltimore | Oct 9, 2007 11:04:02 AM


  6. Cool Nate

    remember when you guys go looking for funding, hit the venture capitalists/ investors with gays= disposable income greater than straights, aging gay population= large= $, etc

    You and the others might be in it for the good deed, but the investors you will inevitably need are in it for the money. STRESS HUGE financial benefits from gay friendly assisted living facilities.

    Posted by: jimmyboyo | Oct 9, 2007 11:28:44 AM


  7. More reason than ever to teach our very young compassion for all. Who do you think will be the ones to care for those of us who will be totally without caregivers? Bring on the Rainbow Retirement Villages..and hurry! The Boomers are gonna need em!

    Posted by: Malibu Boy | Oct 9, 2007 11:38:50 AM


  8. Being a healthcare professional and a (gasp) middle-aged gay man I have witnessed the disparity that occurs when a gay person gets sick as opposed to straight people. Gays are often estranged from their so-called family and those are the people granted legal rights under current law when it comes to health issues. This is why it is so important to push for marriage equality. Civil unions are NOT the same when it comes to certain issues like this. Homophobia plays a big role when the gay person cannot speak for themselves and the "significant other" is shut out by the "family."

    Working night shift, I cannot tell you how many late night visitations I have to arrange just so gay spouses can see each other. If your readers are interested, Andy, have them stop by the SAGE website, www.sageusa.org to find out more information about what it is to be gay and gray. We're all going to be there someday, people. Best get involved today to assure rights for tomorrow.

    Posted by: JerzeeMike | Oct 9, 2007 11:47:28 AM


  9. I work in a nursing home in Western Montana. There's one woman who is a lesbian, one we suspect is-- or I do, anyway because of her history of being a spinster and... well you'll just have to believe me. Last week at an inservice we had to watch a video on "resident sexual rights." They actually showed two golden girls making out. I know at my facility homos are and would be taken care of, because all the staff knows there's a homo they'd have to contend with: me.

    Our elderly in general are marginalized, folks. Please, go visit a nursing home. Find someone to be an advocate for. There aren't a lot of young gay men working in that field, doing what I do. They need you.

    It'll improve their life and your's.

    Posted by: justincredible | Oct 9, 2007 12:19:28 PM


  10. This issue resonates with me too for some reason...my partner and I have no kids so I've started to think about what will happen to us if/when we live to be old.

    I agree with the get those "senior" gay & lesbian communities built comments!

    As an FYI, MetLife did a fairly significant study on aging in the LGBT population and future financial needs so the market is taking notice of the potential.

    Posted by: ATLSteve | Oct 9, 2007 1:45:57 PM


  11. Thanks, Nate, Jerzeemike & Justincredible. With guys like y'all there's hope. The pessimissism I spoke about earlier is simply out of selfishness and fear--we see ourselves in the faces of the seniors and it scares the shit of us.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Oct 9, 2007 1:50:37 PM


  12. AtlSteve: At least you have a partner...there's hope *someone* might be there for you. I'm fat and ugly in Los Angeles--I have no chance of meeting someone. I figure I'm going to be one of those people who are found four weeks after they die because the neighbors notice the stench.

    Posted by: Scott | Oct 9, 2007 2:09:13 PM


  13. Derrick, you're right, it is scary to be a senior, and to know that we will be one too. But that's not something specific to gays. Elders are marginalized in general.

    The one thing I think is sad is this talk of the financial benefits there are in this 'market.' If that's what it takes to care for our elders, so be it. But it should never be the reason. Our society ought to nurture those who can't care for themselves- the vulnerable, weak, ill-- because it's simply the right thing to do.

    Again, go out there and volunteer. I promise, the experience will pay for itself.

    Posted by: justincredible | Oct 9, 2007 2:17:17 PM


  14. justin we all would prefer the ideal

    BUT the US doesn't work that way. Have to play the game as it is

    Posted by: jimmyboyo | Oct 9, 2007 2:58:01 PM


  15. From Schmitz Blitz: schmitzblitz.wordpress.com

    The article discussed the option of creating gay only nursing homes. This immediately brought to mind Harvey Milk High School– a high school just for gay students in New York City. While I understand that gay teens can face isolation and extreme bullying from their peers (it is not surprising then that the number one cause of death of gay teens is suicide), I do not believe segregation is the solution. Gay teens must learn to live with a sometimes hostile society, just as much as the society must learn to accept the existence of gay people. That can never happen so long as gays and straights live in different and separate spheres.

    Given my problems with gay segregation in schools, I was initially hesitant about the prospect of creating gay only nursing homes for the elderly. However in the end I think I’m coming down in support. While the attitudes toward homosexuality are becoming ever more accepting among the younger generations, it is not so for the older ones. And I can’t really see the older generations changing their minds after decades of believing that homosexuality is a mental disorder and a gross perversion. Additionally, since elderly gays are reaching the end of their lives, there is little value in learning to deal with and overcome discrimination. They should be allowed to enjoy the rest of their lives free from the isolation and depression that come with discrimination and bigotry.

    There was one bit of the article that actually struck a hopeful note for me. The article interviewed an elderly gay man who was looking for a gay-friendly nursing home for his partner who could no longer feed himself or speak due to his advanced Alzheimer’s disease. He noted that the best he found was one run by Carmelite nuns, “because they had a sense of humor.” I believe the Catholic Church and others would do well by taking an example from these Carmelite sisters, who offer love and kindness rather than condemnation and scorn.

    Posted by: Elizabeth Schmitz | Oct 9, 2007 3:34:29 PM


  16. From Schmitz Blitz: schmitzblitz.wordpress.com

    The article discussed the option of creating gay only nursing homes. This immediately brought to mind Harvey Milk High School– a high school just for gay students in New York City. While I understand that gay teens can face isolation and extreme bullying from their peers (it is not surprising then that the number one cause of death of gay teens is suicide), I do not believe segregation is the solution. Gay teens must learn to live with a sometimes hostile society, just as much as the society must learn to accept the existence of gay people. That can never happen so long as gays and straights live in different and separate spheres.

    Given my problems with gay segregation in schools, I was initially hesitant about the prospect of creating gay only nursing homes for the elderly. However in the end I think I’m coming down in support. While the attitudes toward homosexuality are becoming ever more accepting among the younger generations, it is not so for the older ones. And I can’t really see the older generations changing their minds after decades of believing that homosexuality is a mental disorder and a gross perversion. Additionally, since elderly gays are reaching the end of their lives, there is little value in learning to deal with and overcome discrimination. They should be allowed to enjoy the rest of their lives free from the isolation and depression that come with discrimination and bigotry.

    There was one bit of the article that actually struck a hopeful note for me. The article interviewed an elderly gay man who was looking for a gay-friendly nursing home for his partner who could no longer feed himself or speak due to his advanced Alzheimer’s disease. He noted that the best he found was one run by Carmelite nuns, “because they had a sense of humor.” I believe the Catholic Church and others would do well by taking an example from these Carmelite sisters, who offer love and kindness rather than condemnation and scorn.

    Posted by: Elizabeth Schmitz | Oct 9, 2007 3:34:48 PM


  17. From Schmitz Blitz: schmitzblitz.wordpress.com

    The article discussed the option of creating gay only nursing homes. This immediately brought to mind Harvey Milk High School– a high school just for gay students in New York City. While I understand that gay teens can face isolation and extreme bullying from their peers (it is not surprising then that the number one cause of death of gay teens is suicide), I do not believe segregation is the solution. Gay teens must learn to live with a sometimes hostile society, just as much as the society must learn to accept the existence of gay people. That can never happen so long as gays and straights live in different and separate spheres.

    Given my problems with gay segregation in schools, I was initially hesitant about the prospect of creating gay only nursing homes for the elderly. However in the end I think I’m coming down in support. While the attitudes toward homosexuality are becoming ever more accepting among the younger generations, it is not so for the older ones. And I can’t really see the older generations changing their minds after decades of believing that homosexuality is a mental disorder and a gross perversion. Additionally, since elderly gays are reaching the end of their lives, there is little value in learning to deal with and overcome discrimination. They should be allowed to enjoy the rest of their lives free from the isolation and depression that come with discrimination and bigotry.

    There was one bit of the article that actually struck a hopeful note for me. The article interviewed an elderly gay man who was looking for a gay-friendly nursing home for his partner who could no longer feed himself or speak due to his advanced Alzheimer’s disease. He noted that the best he found was one run by Carmelite nuns, “because they had a sense of humor.” I believe the Catholic Church and others would do well by taking an example from these Carmelite sisters, who offer love and kindness rather than condemnation and scorn.

    Posted by: Elizabeth Schmitz | Oct 9, 2007 3:34:54 PM


  18. Thank you, Elizabeth. We never really think about a vulnerable gay senior in a nursing home surrounded by homophobic seniors and anti-gay staff. I'm sure there are many older folks who can stand up for themselves, but just like gay teens, some folks need the rest of us looking out for them.

    Posted by: derrick from Philly | Oct 9, 2007 4:18:48 PM


  19. @Jeff Oct 9, 2007 10:17:27 AM

    Check out SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders)

    http://www.sageusa.org/

    Interesting that the article makes no mention of SAGE even though a friend who works there told me that the author had a 4 hour research meeting at the SAGE offices.

    Posted by: bizasizzalizzyizzo | Oct 9, 2007 5:00:27 PM


  20. Elizabeth, I think that Carmelites are actually an order within the Catholic church...

    Jimmy,
    My positions on taking care of the elderly certainly are idealistic. I'm working in a pretty good nursing home and it sure as hell isn't a stone throw close to how it should be.

    My point is that when you start viewing medicine as lucrative venture, you overlook the human aspect. If doctors ran hospitals, and nurses ran nursing homes, people would be taken care of. Instead, corporations own them and the consumer gets raped. It costs nearly ten thousand dollars a month to live where I work. The residents' meals are served for a dollar each, they're lucky if they have maybe a half hour of human contact a day, you even have to pay twenty bucks a month to rent a wheel chair. And those diapers they have to wear? They cost as much as a latte each. These people are exploited; not taken care of.

    I know how the US works. It's sad. It's really sad that people think that money will make it better, because from where I stand, it just makes someone else rich while you get to sit in your own incontinence pad.

    Posted by: justincredible | Oct 9, 2007 10:47:14 PM


  21. I'm 69 yo and I'm hoping to die before I'm at the point of having to go to a nursing home. I have no friends since they ALL died thru the 80's and 90's of AIDS. I took personal care of five of them until they died. Four years ago I was diagoned with non-small cell lung cancer and went thru four quimos and 30 radiation. It seems to have worked but has left me with only 1 lung. I'm straight acting and looking. Also I'm in good shape physically but I dread the day I can't take care of myself. I'm retired and live modestly but not bad. Again I hope I die before the nursing home days come upon me. I also live in Miami Beach where youth and hot young bodies are exalted. It is really the wrong place for an old gay man to live but I do not have the means to move and I do not drive or own a car. In other words unless death takes me out, I have a very bleak future for my remaining years on this planet.

    Posted by: Oscar | Oct 10, 2007 2:26:07 AM


  22. Even though we always disagree, Oscar (if you are our Oscar who posts here regularly),I hope your future is NOT bleak. Aren't there any gay organizations in Miami that welcome gay seniors?

    Hey, Oscar, wouldn't it be great if you made friends with some black and Jewish gay seniors? But PLEASE, Liebling, be careful what you say around them.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Oct 11, 2007 1:14:01 PM


  23. As a nursing facility Administrator, I have provided care for at least three openly gay residents in the last two years. There were absolutely NO adverse reactions from other residents or staff members. In fact, two cases were VERY difficult in terms of care needs. The partners were attentive, loving and devoted beyond comprehension. Many people learned the partner's special needs and pitched in to make their jobs easier. These cases were discussed in the context of being inspriational, not aberrhent.

    Posted by: JD Davis | Oct 12, 2007 12:22:14 PM


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