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Film Screening and Panel Discussion to Focus on LGBT Elders

Breaking Generation Silent: Facing the Needs and Challenges of LGBT Elders

For adults, 65 and older, aging can present numerous challenges, including the ability to maintain good  health. But for many of the nation’s estimated 3 million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) elders, growing older may also mean facing very difficult choices, such as choosing to go back into the closet when entering an assisted living home or refusing to seek medical services to avoid potential discrimination.  

These issues will be among the topics addressed on Saturday,  April 2, when UNC’s School of Social Work hosts, “Breaking  Generation Silent: Facing the Needs and Challenges of LGBT Elders.” This Chapel Hill event, which is free and open to the public, kicks off at 1 p.m. at the William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education with a screening of the 2010 documentary, “Gen Silent.”   

This film has received praise from film festivals across the country and addresses the realities confronting many LGBT elders, including poverty, isolation, inadequate access to health and long-term care services and discrimination from aging providers. The one-hour film by award-winning director, Stu Maddux, also examines current efforts to educate and train providers and caregivers about the existence of LGBT elders — a population expected to double by 2030 — and their specific social, medical, and financial needs.  

Register Now!!!

Registration encouraged but not mandatory. Professionals seeking contact hours must register.

Visit: http://bit.ly/lgbtaging

Following the film screening, Maddux will join a panel
discussion to further explore the strengths and
vulnerabilities of the population, including the challenges
of ensuring that LGBT seniors have the same opportunity
as their heterosexual peers to age in a safe and supportive environment. 
Among the other panelists will be:
•   Mandy Carter,  a co-founder of the National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights organization for black LGBT individuals and their allies dedicated to fostering equality by fighting racism and homophobia. Carter is on the Advisory Board of SAGE, the nation’s largest and oldest advocacy group for LGBT elders, and has helped support training for North Carolina’s Area Agencies on Aging via the North Carolina chapter of the AARP.
•    Debi Lee,  the lead regional ombudsman for the Centralina Area Agency on Aging. Lee hosts the “Gay and Gray” program for Charlotte’s Lesbian & Gay Community Center.
•    Connie Vetter, an attorney and mediator in Charlotte, whose practice focuses primarily on legal services for LGBT individuals and couples. These services include estate planning, relationship documents, and adoption.
•    Dee Leahman, director for Community Partnership for End of Life Care, a program of Hospice & Palliative CareCenter in Winston-Salem. Leahman has worked closely with LGBT families on end-of-life issues. He is the 2010 recipient of the American Hospital Association’s Society for Healthcare Consumer Advocacy Award.

Research from grassroots organizations and academic studies show that today’s LGBT seniors enjoy an unprecedented degree of social acceptance. Yet, many are not seeking needed services as they age because of fear of discrimination from health care providers. SAGE reports that older adults are twice as likely to live alone as heterosexual older adults and are more than four times as likely to have no children, “the informal caregiving support” system that most assume will be in place for aging seniors. Many of these elders are also estranged from their families and rely on a fragile network of friends for help.

Furthermore, advocacy groups such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force note that “LGBT baby boomers are on the cusp of needing culturally appropriate services, care and policy attention – all things completely off the radar of federal, state, and local governments.”

Without national legal recognition for same-sex couples, some LGBT seniors may struggle financially during their retirement years following the death of a partner. Unlike married heterosexual couples, LGBT couples do not have access to survivors’ benefits such as pension funds or federal Social Security. Such benefits were established, in part, to help older adults through economic hardships during an illness or after the death of a spouse.

School leaders and faculty hope the Breaking Generation Silent event will attract interest from the UNC-Chapel Hill community and from across the state, including from professionals within the medical, public health, nursing and legal fields.

“Our first priority is to raise awareness within the School, especially among the program’s 300-plus MSW students, many of whom will go on to work with the aging population in a variety of settings,” said Travis Albritton, director of the School’s Triangle Distance Education Program and chairman of the School’s Diversity Committee, which is organizing the event. “But our hope is that this will also be an opportunity for individuals from multiple perspectives and multiple disciplines to come together to learn more about the diverse needs of LGBT seniors and to better inform practice.” 

Attendance to “Breaking Generation Silent,” is free, although donations to help defray costs and to support future School-sponsored diversity events are welcomed. Because of limited seating, those interested in attending are encouraged to register online here. Professionals interested in receiving three contact hours for attending this event must register before April 2.

The Friday Center is located at 100 Friday Center Drive, Chapel Hill, N.C., approximately three miles east of the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, just off Highway 54 East (Raleigh Road). Directions to the Friday Center.

This event is sponsored with support from: UNC School of Social Work Dean Jack M. Richman and from faculty members; the Center for Aging Research and Educational Services (CARES); the LGBT Center of Raleigh; the Provost’s Committee on LGBTQ Life at UNC-Chapel Hill; UNC’s LGBTQ Center, UNC's Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, the N.C. chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and from individual contributions.

For more information, contact sewhite@email.unc.edu or call 919-962-6418.