Many LGBT seniors feel isolated from their community, and COVID-19 has only amplified this problem.
Southern Arizona Senior Pride tries to ensure these individuals can connect with others while having access to important resources and programs.
The organization will have a presence at this year’s Tucson Pride Festival on Saturday, Oct. 1, when they will share information about its mission, upcoming activities and programs like walk and rolls, holiday parties, writing workshops, museum tours and speaker series.
In November, the organization will offer a guided tour of the University of Arizona Museum of Art, which is hosting the youth art exhibit “Mapping Q: Still Here/Still Queer.” The artwork came out of virtual workshops for LGBT youth, led by LGBT artists.
Several times a year, Senior Pride hosts speakers to discuss issues important to LGBT senior community. One author recently shared his book about his experience of growing LGBT in Douglas.
“We’ve tried to inform the community as best as we can over time,” said Joyce Bolinger, board secretary for Southern Arizona Senior Pride. “It’s part of our advocacy mission and programming, which we take seriously, and we would also like to expand and broaden.”
On Wednesday, Sept. 21, the organization hosted a special talk called “The Fight for LGBTQI+ Rights-What’s Ahead?”
For the event, they brought in Lambda Legal Western Regional Office Staff Attorney Kell Olson and Rep. Andrés Cano, LGBTQ+ Alliance Fund director.
They talked about the recent Arizona legislative session and the national landscape, as well as what community members can do in response.
Once a year, the organization brings in speakers to talk on state and national policy issues, such as the Equality Act.
Southern Arizona Senior Pride is trying to encourage people of different ages to get involved, whether it’s by writing their state and national legislators or by voting during the midterm elections.
“We want our community to be informed and to hopefully take some steps to work against this, to rally our supporters, our allies and our community,” Bolinger said.
Bolinger said she is concerned that the country is moving backward.
“Our generations came into adulthood in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s,” Bolinger said. “We paved the way for some of the breakthroughs that our community has experienced, like same-sex marriage and various protections. Here we are looking around, and it’s happening all over again. And it’s happening for the same reason. It’s political football.
“We’ve gotten used to having these rights. Young people think that’s it. They’ve taken it for granted. Well, we need to be vigilant.”
Social and educational activities are important to bringing together the elderly LGBT community.
“Our mission is to celebrate, support and unify LGBTQI+ older adults,” said Lavina Tomer, a board member for Southern Arizona Senior Pride.
Bolinger said events draw people of different backgrounds and interests.
“One of the things that I love about Senior Pride is it’s everyone in our community. Often, there’s men’s groups, women’s groups and trans groups, and they’re not together. In our activities, they are together,” Bolinger said.
“It’s really important for them to have a group where people have shared a certain life experience. Of course, it’s always unique to the individual, but we have all gone through certain rites of passage and certain ways of coping.”
The organization tries to build community, especially for those going through tougher times in their lives.
For men and women, there are support groups for grief and loss, which meet regularly.
The Community Cares program helps elderly people who feel isolated, especially those who are homebound and in assisted or independent-living facilities.
The program serves disabled people of different ages by scheduling phone calls or in-home visits. Some volunteers and participants have forged friendships after four years together.
“I think it’s telling that people stay with the program, whether they’re volunteers or recipients. It matters that they have contact. Sometimes, it’s the only contact that they have with the LGBT community,” Tomer said.
“They may have been out all of their lives, have had friends and met people, but now they are vulnerable. They can’t get out and may have lost their partners or lost some of their friends, and they really need support from our community,” Bolinger added.
Through the senior pride organization’s Advanced Medical Care Planning program, adults 18 and older can get assistance with documents such as powers of attorney and living wills.
“We educate them about why it’s important. We provide the documents, explain the documents, can even witness the documents and then inform them on how to register their documents in the State of Arizona. We do all of those steps with people, either in a workshop setting or one-on-one,” Tomer said.
An important part of the organization’s mission is making sure elderly LGBT individuals are informed. The organization partners with other agencies, such as the Pima Council on Aging, to educate seniors on topics such as fall prevention.
The organization is looking for volunteers of different ages to help with office administration, programs and events. Those interested can inquire at upcoming events or on the organization’s website.
Southern Arizona Senior Pride