Rochester, N.Y.— For the past few years, issues surrounding gay youth in America have been widely known and publicized. However, there is a sector of the gay population that doesn’t get the same amount of attention.
“We know that the LGBT youth and their needs make the news very often,” says Kelly Clark, the director of intergenerational programs at the Gay Alliance. “But people don't consider older LGBT people face the same challenges.”
Clark says that new studies about the elderly LGBT community have helped grow the trend of gay senior centers throughout the U.S.
Just this May, the Gay Alliance opened its own senior center in Rochester.
“It's really important to help increase social opportunities for gay seniors,” Clark says.
She says this is especially true because gay seniors often live alone and don’t have children, so there may not be people around to take care of them or to provide companionship.
Clark says the program is fairly unique in the U.S. Twice a week the Gay Alliance opens its doors to host activities, speakers or meals for gay seniors. According to Clark, about 15 people show up each week and they are trying to increase their numbers.
Clark believes that the center provides gay seniors an atmosphere where they feel safe and welcome. However, there are plenty of gay seniors who don’t feel that way where they live.
“We find that when many LGBT seniors are moving into nursing homes and assisted living facilities, they are going back into the closet,” Clark says. “They are afraid to tell people about themselves.”
Bud Minard, 85, lives in an assisted living facility. While Minard is comfortable with his sexuality, he admits that he isn’t open about it there. He says many seniors are very conservative and might not be accepting.
“I don't think of it as hiding my sexuality, but I don't bring it up because it may bother other people,” Minard says. “There are people there who know that I am gay, but it's never brought up. They just think I’m a nice guy.”
The Gay Alliance hopes to reach out to more gay seniors who may not know about the senior center. The Gay Alliance also offers training and consultations to assisted living facilities and nursing homes.