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    LGBT Aging Policy Task Force 5th Anniversary Celebration

    By Dr. Marcy Adelman–

    The event was billed as a celebration and review of work in progress, but it was also an opportunity for city leadership to double down on the need for more affordable housing and more affordable LGBTQ welcoming senior housing. March 2019 is the 5th Anniversary of the LGBT Aging Policy Task Force. The Task Force, initiated in 2012 by out Supervisors Scott Wiener, David Campos and Christina Olague, released its final report in March of 2014. Over the last 5 years, 11 of the 13 task force recommendations have been implemented; a stunning achievement by any reckoning.

    On Saturday, March 9, The Department of Aging and Adult Services hosted an anniversary celebration at the LGBT Community Center. Despite heavy rain and a BART computer glitch that shut down service for most of the morning, a pretty good size crowd of former Task Force members, local and state dignitaries, including Mayor London Breed, and community members came to express their pride in—and their gratitude for—the good work advanced by the Task Force and to voice their commitment to the important work that still needs to be done.

    The LGBT Aging Policy Task Force had been charged with identifying barriers to living well and to make actionable recommendations to the Board of Supervisors to enhance quality of life for LGBTQ older adults. Implemented recommendations include a financial empowerment program to reduce financial insecurity, LGBTQ cultural competency training for senior serving nonprofits, a housing subsidy program targeted for LGBTQ older adults at risk of eviction, an LGBTQ dementia project to reduce barriers to services and improve care, peer support programs to reduce isolation and loneliness, legislation to establish legal protections for LGBTQ older adults in long term care facilities, city collection of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data and several other recommendations. (For a more detailed description of the Task Force’s recommendations and status of implementation see the San Francisco Bay Times Aging in Community column:

    The implementation of SOGI data has fallen behind schedule. Supervisor Mandelman will be conducting a panel in April to determine how best to accelerate implementation of SOGI data going forward. With this data the city and the LGBTQ community will have a more informed understanding of the health and service needs of LGBTQ residents.

    Mayor Breed spoke to the challenges that still exist for LGBTQ older adults and those incurred when applying for housing and jobs. The Mayor cited the executive directive she issued last year for all departments to have transgender identifiers on applications and forms to address some of those challenges. Mayor Breed committed to doing everything possible to keep people from losing their housing and winding up on the streets.

    The Mayor acknowledged the work of Sen. Wiener and former supervisors David Campos and Christina Olague in making the Task Force possible. The three previous supervisors were honored for their part in the Task Force, as was Bill Ambrunn, Task Force Chair. She also thanked others who helped and are helping to implement the Task Force recommendations—City Treasurer Jose Cisneros, Supervisor Mandelman, The Department of Aging and Adult Services and the Office of Transgender Initiatives. The Mayor also recognized her friend and neighbor, Felicia Flames, a longtime transgender advocate who was newly appointed by the Mayor to the Commission on Aging and Adult Services.

    David Campos reminded everyone that no matter how much we have done, there are still people struggling to survive. He shared that many people tell him, ” I survived the AIDS crisis, but I am not surviving the housing crisis.” He offered that the way to honor LGBTQ elders is to commit ourselves to the work that makes lives better.”

    Supervisor Mandelman also focused his remarks on the need for more affordable senior housing. “Not withstanding all the amazing work done by the Task Force, the work going forward is even greater. We need 10 more 55 Lagunas. (A reference to Openhouse’s affordable senior housing.) We need more LGBTQ welcoming affordable senior housing. We need to make sure that LGBTQ people can remain in San Francisco and live thriving out lives.”

    Clearly, we have much to celebrate. But so much work is yet to be done. LGBTQ older adults continue to be underrepresented in affordable senior housing and senior services. That needs to change.

    Dr. Marcy Adelman, Co-founder of the nonprofit Openhouse, oversees the Aging in Community column. She is a psychologist and LGBTQI longevity advocate and policy advisor. She serves on the California Commission on Aging, the Board of the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern California and Northern Nevada and the San Francisco Dignity Fund Oversight and Advisory Committee.