by Dr. Marcy Adelman and Dr. Karyn Skultety. This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Bay Times.
Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.
Nearly a century ago, Helen Keller first uttered the phrase but it still holds true to this day. This sentiment was brought to life at the October 11 Advocating for LGBTQ Seniors in the Master Plan for Aging in California panel discussion co-hosted by We Stand with Seniors … Will You? and Openhouse. It was remarkable to see the wide range of attendees pour into the San Francisco LGBT Center to learn from an outstanding panel why California so desperately needs a master plan for aging, how that plan will reflect marginalized communities and how the community can support the development of such a plan.
By 2030, California’s senior population will nearly double. That’s four million new seniors in a little less than 12 years. Bill Earley from the We Stand with Seniors campaign explained how this epic demographic shift has been a slow-moving avalanche for years. Currently, twenty percent of seniors in California live in poverty. In San Francisco, that number jumps to thirty percent.
So, what has the state done to address this issue, especially in light of millions more seniors in the near future? Unfortunately, not much. That’s where We Stand with Seniors comes into play. Since early this year, the campaign has been working diligently to elevate senior issues among policymakers, break through the media clutter and urge the creation of a master plan for aging so that our older adults, their caregivers and families can age successfully in place.
To hone in on how this master plan for aging will reflect marginalized communities specifically, Cecilia Chung with the Transgender Law Center, Tom Nolan with the San Francisco Department of Adult and Aging Services, Sarah Steenhausen with The SCAN Foundation and Senator Scott Wiener shared insights and experiences from their respective careers.
Not only did the audience hang on to each panelist’s every word, but the discussion also covered in-depth the many challenges faced by our LGBTQ seniors, their caregivers and family members when accessing quality, affordable health and supportive services, as well as prospective solutions.
In listening to community members share their fears and concerns associated with long-term care facilities, accessing affordable housing, dying alone, homelessness and more, it was clear that events like this don’t happen often enough. Bringing statistics to life through shared experiences helps to explain to state leaders why we need action on this issue today, and why California must prioritize all seniors in policy discussions and why—as a community—we must make our collective voice heard.
It’s unacceptable in today’s world for an LGBTQ senior to feel like they have to go back in the closet in order to access long-term care. It’s unacceptable for healthcare providers to discriminate against transgender individuals. It’s unacceptable for millions of our elders to be living on the streets. And, it’s unacceptable for the state to not step in to address these issues.
At the end of the day, the challenges faced by our aging population affect all Californians. Now is the time to come together and urge candidates, policymakers and state leaders to act on these matters.
If you want to help ensure that all Californians can age in the place they call home, surrounded by people they love, in a community where they feel they belong, take action. Pull up a chair. Get involved. Make your voice heard, because together we can do so much.
Dr. Marcy Adelman, a clinical psychologist, is a Co-founder of Openhouse. She is also a Commissioner on the California Commission on Aging, and a member of the board of the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern California and Northern Nevada.
Dr. Karyn Skultety is the Executive Director of Openhouse. Openhouse is a non-profit dedicated to serving and celebrating LGBTQ seniors in San Francisco and the Bay Area with housing, support and community building.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.