Recent Comments


    Aging in Community Special Edition

    By Dr. Marcy Adelman–

    Welcome to the Aging in Community column’s first special edition, a two-part series in the month of May, to celebrate Older Americans Month. The articles and stories are from a diverse group of contributors, state and city officials, senior service providers, social justice and LGBTQ aging advocates and artists. The subjects cover a broad range of subjects.

    In Part 1 there are seven articles that cover the following topics: legislation to protect the rights of LGBTQ elders in nursing homes; the challenges and resiliency of HIV long-term survivors; advocacy in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic and orders to shelter-in-place; increasing awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and LGBTQ people of color; dementia care and concerns of transgender people; how life review and reflection helped a gay man in his 70s achieve greater self-acceptance and deepened his confidence in himself and his capacity to live in the moment; and last, the progress being made in San Francisco to provide services and resources to unhoused LGBTQ elders. 

    Part 2 will cover another set of issues with different contributors: There will be articles by Dr. Kathleen Sullivan, Openhouse Executive Director; Jewelle Gomez, nationally acclaimed author and playwright; Grace Li, On Lok Executive Director; Dr. Jason Flatt, Associate Professor of Behavioral Health at the University of Nevada; India Harville, Founder of Embraced Body and a queer disability activist; Honey Mahogany, Founder of the Transgender District and Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party; Eric Carlson, Director of Long-Term Services and Support Advocacy at Justice in Aging; and Suzanne Ford, Executive Director of San Francisco Pride.

    My hope is that this special edition will inform you about the challenges and opportunities of later life and some of the important issues facing our aging LGBTQ community, and that it will inspire you to get involved. All of us working together can make our community and our city a place for all people to age and thrive.

    Part 1 

    1. Senator Scott Wiener‘s article describes the history of the LGBTQ Long-Term Care Facility Residents’ Bill of Rights, which was passed in San Francisco in 2015 and became state law in 2017. These were both firsts and would eventually spark a movement of protection across the country. These laws are essential to protect LGBTQ people from experiencing discrimination in long-term care facilities. But these laws are now under attack. Senator Wiener wisely writes that “progress is rarely linear” and calls us to keep on pushing for protections and for our civil rights. In these dangerous times, when it is sometimes hard to see the road ahead, his message is both hopeful and inspiring.  

    2. Dr. Meredith Greene is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Geriatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, and is an expert in the field of HIV long-term survivors. She describes the many health and mental health challenges faced by HIV long-term survivors (LTS) and lists their top concerns. She identifies the HIV LTS targeted services in San Francisco, but makes it clear that the available services are not enough. HIV LTS services have not kept pace with the changing needs of this population as they have aged. Dr. Greene’s article serves as a call to action and a powerful reminder that much more needs to be done.

    3. Daniel Redman is an elder law attorney and advocate for LGBTQ elder policies and programs. He tells the story of an informal group of San Francisco advocates and city officials who organized in 2020 during the time of COVID-19 and shelter-in-place to identify the unmet needs of the city’s LGBTQ elders. This group quickly identified areas of greatest concern, offered solutions to the city, and successfully secured the resources necessary to address those concerns.

    4. Brendalynn Goodall is an East Bay social justice and LGBTQ aging advocate. She describes a committed and loving care circle she and her wife belonged to where they cared for a friend living with Alzheimer’s. She tells how this experience motivated her to work with the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. She writes about partnering with the Alzheimer’s Association to increase awareness of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in LGBTQ people of color, and to increase culturally competent services and resources in the East Bay for all LGBTQ older adults.

    5. Ames Simmons is a transgender man, lawyer, and member of the National Advisory Council of the SAGE & Human Rights Foundation’s Long-Term Care Equality Index. He shares his personal story of painful family rejection, his father’s cognitive decline and death, and his fears of having dementia later in life. Simmons’ greatest concern is about having dementia and being powerless to help himself. He is, however, not alone. Many transgender people are similarly concerned about losing their ability to protect themselves. Simmons encourages people to be proactive and offers several ways to reduce feelings of powerlessness that often keep people from seeking the care that they will need. 

    6. Rudy Lemke, a multidisciplinary visual artist and co-founder of the Queer Cultural Center in San Francisco, writes about how, in his 70s, he has acquired a greater sense of self-acceptance and inner peace through self-reflection of his life as he has lived it. He suggests that later life itself offers perspective and the opportunity for self-acceptance, and finally, the gift to live more fully in the moment.   

    7. Shireen McSpadden, the Executive Director of the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Services (HSH), now one year into her new position, describes her strategy for a more robust response to the needs of LGBTQ older adults. LGBTQ people, both young and old, and especially LGBTQ people of color, are overrepresented among the city’s homeless population. While the city has had a better response record caring for the needs of LGBTQ homeless youth, under McSpadden’s leadership, the city is finally working to correct the lack of focus on LGBTQ older adults. In her article she describes the many ways the city is now matching homeless LGBTQ older people with culturally appropriate resources as well as stepping up to provide more homeless prevention resources as well. This is a welcome and much needed change.  

    The Aging in Community column now has an email address:

    We invite you to comment on our column, let us know what aging issues are on your mind, and what topics you would like to see in the future. We thank you for your support and your readership. 

    Aging in the Community by Dr. Marcy Adelman
    Published on May 4, 2023