For the past several years, the Utah Pride Center has offered an array of programs and activities for youth age 14-20, but comparatively few for senior citizens, or young adults over 21.
But that is changing with the addition of three new programs to the Center’s calendar: Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, OutLet and Expressiones.
SAGE is open to members of Utah’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer community aged 50 or older. Its official kick off was held Sept. 12 on the Utah Pride Center’s back lawn, complete with food, cocktails and emcee Ruby Ridge overseeing the Goldie Awards, which were given to notable gay and transgender elders. Center employees were also on hand to discuss SAGE’s upcoming programs and answer questions.
“We’ve known for quite sometime that there hasn’t been any programming for the older segments of our community,” said Jennifer Nuttall, the Center’s Adult Programs Director. “And elders have some unique concerns and needs which have been highlighted through research we’ve done, as well as concerns [specifically to being gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender elders].”
“Also, the statistics show that as the Baby Boomers age, there will also be a boom of LGBT elders,” she continued. “A tidal wave is coming and we definitely want to be prepared for that.”
To help meet the needs of this swelling tide, SAGE will offer three events before the close of the year. On Oct. 21, David Turner of Salt Lake County Aging Services will host a dialogue discussion about how gay and transgender seniors’ needs match up with those of the national aging movement, and how they differ. On Nov. 18, the Center will host an estate planning workshop geared to gay and transgender-specific concerns, such as putting the proper documents in place to assure that partners left behind have the maximum protection Utah law allows. For December, the Center is planning a to be determined service project for gay and transgender elders.
At the September lawn party, the Center also announced the results of its survey on aging, which it kicked off during June’s Utah Pride Festival and has also made available on its Web site. In all, the Center has so far collected 165 surveys, which have given them not only a good picture of the elders they’re serving, but the elders they’re missing.
People who took the survey, said Nuttall, are largely affluent, healthy, mobile, and employed and have access to health care.
“They’re not the really at-risk, needy population that you sometimes hear about,” she said. However, “we know there are elders out there that are much more isolated, who aren’t going out to Pride or coming to the Pride Center … people who are homebound or in the closet, who have more risk and more need.” To meet their needs, Nuttall said the Center will work with Salt Lake County Aging Services to help identify these elders so they can offer help.
Nuttall is also hopeful that elders who participated in the survey can help spread the word.
“It’s growing your own,” she said. “We’ll be working with this population as we age together and have the resources in place so we can have a very well-educated community where growing older becomes a more supported process.”
The survey will remain open on the Utah Pride Center’s Web page, utahpridecenter.org, for the next few months, and all eligible Utahns are encouraged to take it.
While SAGE serves the community’s elders, OutLet and Expressiones are geared towards gay and bisexual men aged 18-30; the first is a more general group while the latter is specifically for Latino men (because of the scarcity of programs for gay and bisexual Latinos, this group is open to all regardless of age). The aim of both groups, said Rosy Galvan, the Center’s HIV Prevention Coordinator, is to empower men to protect themselves from HIV and make healthy lifestyle choices by “getting together and changing social norms.” This approach, said Galvan, is what has become known as “empowerment intervention.”
“[Several programs] realized through extensive research that traditional methods of HIV prevention like going to the bars and distributing condoms were ineffective to the younger generation,” she said. “They found they needed social spaces, so this intervention creates an environment where [the younger men] are the decision makers of the project.” This means, she said, that the core members of each group get to plan events like movie nights and even Easter Egg hunts that have “a safer sex twist” to them. By focusing on members’ self-esteem and friendships, the hope is that they will not only be responsible for their own health choices, such as protecting themselves during sex, but encourage others in the community to do the same.
“It’s a fun way of learning more about sex and relationships and extending the issue of safer sex beyond putting on a condom,” she said.
The programs are possible, said Galvan, because of a grant from the Utah Department of Health.
To learn more about OutLet or Expressiones, or about the Center’s free, confidential HIV testing on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month, call Galvan at (801) 539-8800 ex. 23.