Seniors Out and Proud expands to Southern Utah

In the heart of Southern Utah, a new chapter of Seniors Out and Proud, or SOAP, has emerged, offering a ray of hope to LGBTQ seniors seeking to combat isolation and find a supportive community. This dedicated group, led by executive director Deb Hall, recognizes the unique challenges faced by older LGBTQ individuals and strives to provide them with the companionship and care they deserve.

Hall, a passionate advocate for seniors, brings a wealth of experience to the table. Her journey in senior care has taken her through various roles, from her involvement with the Alzheimer’s Association to serving on boards for seniors, such as the Utah Commission on Aging Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Coordinating Council, and the Utah Department of Aging and Adult Services. Hall’s expertise extends to hospice care, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living, and memory care neighborhoods.

Her initial involvement with the national organization SAGE, which catered to gay and lesbian elders, inspired her to create Seniors Loud and Proud when SAGE disbanded its local chapters. The mission of the group is clear: to reduce social isolation and loneliness, and improve the overall health and well-being of LGBTQ older adults, empowering them to lead fulfilling lives in their communities.

Historical discrimination, the inability to form public partnerships, and the necessity of concealing their true selves for much of their lives have left many LGBTQ seniors grappling with profound loneliness. Hall emphasizes that this social isolation not only affects their emotional well-being but also increases the risk of cognitive decline and suicidal ideation among LGBTQ seniors. The unique challenges faced by this generation are further compounded by the fact that the Baby Boomer generation is the only one predominantly aging alone.

SOAP has a holistic approach to aging, guided by five pillars:

  1. Cherish the Journey
  2. Encourage the Body
  3. Inspire the Mind
  4. Nurture the Spirit
  5. Empower the Future

These pillars represent a commitment to embracing aging fully, promoting physical health, stimulating mental faculties, nurturing spiritual well-being, and empowering seniors to plan for their futures.

Staying active is a key component of this holistic approach. The organization offers a variety of activities, from kayaking and E-bike rides to walking groups and movie outings. Exercise, healthy diets, and social interaction are essential for reducing the risk of cognitive decline and ensuring seniors lead vibrant lives.

Recognizing that spirituality takes various forms, Seniors Out and Proud encourages members to explore their own spiritual journeys. This can include attending church services if desired but also venturing into the tranquility of nature. The group sends out newsletters that may list local church services but emphasize the therapeutic benefits of connecting with nature.

In addition to addressing social and physical needs, Seniors Out and Proud aims to provide guidance to LGBTQ seniors navigating the complex process of moving into assisted living. Hall has developed cultural competency training to educate healthcare professionals on working with LGBTQ seniors. Many LGBTQ seniors may fear returning to the closet when entering assisted living facilities due to past trauma, such as family rejection, conversion therapy, or discrimination in their careers and military service. Seniors Out and Proud seeks to ensure that these individuals are supported and respected as they age.

Seniors Out and Proud has chapters in St. George, Ogden, and Salt Lake City, offering a lifeline of support and a vibrant community for LGBTQ seniors across Utah. For more information, you can visit their website at seniorsoutandproudutah.org or follow them on Facebook at fb.me/SOAPUtah, as they continue to make a positive impact in the lives of LGBTQ seniors, celebrating the journey of aging with dignity and pride.

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