Can Intergenerational Connection Battle Ageism within the LGBT Community?

Article excerpt

Ageism is hurtful to all older people, but it can be particularly devastating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) elders. Not only do LGBT elders face ageism in the community at large, but they face marginalization within the LGBT community as well.

They are more likely to be cut off from families of origin, less likely to have children and far more likely than their straight peers to depend on a "family of choice" (a network of friends and lovers) rather than a biological family for care and support. While these families are just as caring and loving as biological families, caregiving can become difficult as members of a family of choice face disability and medical issues that come with aging at the same time as care-receivers.

However, a new report, Celebrating Intergenerational Diversity Among LGBT People (ilcuk.org.uk/index.php/publications /publication-details/celebratingJntergen erational-diversity-among-lgbt-people) by London's International Longevity Centre (ILC), shows that creative efforts to bring LGBT youth and elders together can play a critical role in combatting the destructive impact of social isolation and ageism on LGBT elders. These efforts may help forge enduring new bonds that will dramatically improve the situation of LGBT elders and give LGBT youth a stronger sense of their community and history.

Ageism within the LGBT Community

Even within the LGBT community, elders can often feel disconnected and invisible. "Creating opportunities for LGBT individuals to communicate across generations is crucial to breaking down the stereotypes and misconceptions that can leave some LGBT elders isolated from the larger LGBT community," says professor Nancy Knauer of Temple University's Beasley School of Law and author of Gay and Lesbian Elders: History, Law, and Identity Politics in the United States (Ashgate, 2011). "Integrating elders into the broader LGBT community is an important first step to breaking down these barriers to successful aging."

There are some opportunities for intergenerational interaction in the LGBT community through the many LGBT churches and religious organizations, LGBT musical groups and political advocacy organizations. But, as researchers Glenda M. Russell and Janis S. Bohan described in their 2005 article, "The Gay Generation Gap: Communicating Across the LGBT Generation Divide," (www. iglyo.com/content/ar tide. php?id= QA000023) many LGBT social activities tend to be age-segregated, and interactions that cross generations "must be arranged with the explicit intent of creating cross-generational interaction."

Programs Connect Generations

The Longevity Centre report studied three intergenerational LGBT programs conducted between 2010 and 2011 and documented their success. The LGBT Centre in Leicester, U.K.- an industrial, urban community not known as an LGBT hub- trained youth to gather oral histories, and sent them into the community to interview elders. …