Closet the Only Option for Many Gay Seniors
The plight of many gay seniors is highlighted by the Chicago Tribune's profile of 85-year-old Victor Engandela, whose rich, challenging life journey has brought him to a seniors care facility in Evanston, Illinois, where he has been forced back into the closet:
"'I always said when I retired, when it was no longer
dangerous, I was going to come out.' And that's what he did, retiring in the 1970s and telling everyone he knew, including members of the YMCA men's club where he was president, that he was gay. It felt good to finally be fully open, and he savored those years. But now Engandela feels as closeted as he's ever been. He often sits alone in the dining room, and has little to do with the various groups and clubs at his long-term care facility. He has a friend who comes by twice a week. On Saturdays they sit in his room and listen to opera on the radio. Engandela has been to the seniors program at the Center on Halsted a couple of times, but it's hard for him to arrange transportation. Once, another man from the nursing home took him, but when the man realized it was a gay organization he stormed off to the Center's lobby, refusing to dine with Engandela and the other seniors. 'At this point in my life, I can't believe I have to feel this way,' Engandela said. 'I have a lot of memories I'd like to share, a lot I'd like to talk about. But I feel like I can't, and I shudder when I think I have to spend the remaining years of my life in this place.'"
Engandela's story is why groups like S.A.G.E. are so important.
The Tribune also profiles 61-year-old Marvin Levin and the city's Center on Halsted and its seniors program.