Nonprofit Helps LGBTQIA+ Seniors Combat Social Isolation

We do not yet know the full effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our communities, but we do know some communities are more impacted than others. This is especially true for the LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual, and others) community, an intersectional group of individuals with experiences that vary widely across racial, ethnic, social, ability, and economic backgrounds.

Among those most heavily impacted by the coronavirus are the elderly. Research shows that individuals over 60 are more likely to be seriously impacted by COVID-19, and the numbers in Oregon correspond to that research. So, for folks over 60 who also happen to be LGBTQIA+, the risks that COVID-19 presents are compounded with the further marginalization that our society places on queer individuals. 

Hospitals, health care networks and senior advocacy groups have been advocating for socially isolated seniors even before the pandemic, warning that social isolation and loneliness can be harmful to both mental and physical health. According to 2014 research by the AARP presented to the National Council on Aging, 49% of surveyed LGBTQIA+ individuals aged 45-70+ reported themselves as lonely or socially isolated. 

Further, studies show that LGBTQIA+ seniors do not have equitable access to healthcare and have fewer younger social connections than their heterosexual peers. It’s not surprising that advocates and LGBTQIA+ seniors around the nation are having conversations about combating isolation and loneliness.

SAGE, a national organization providing advocacy and services for LGBTQIA+ elders, works to connect seniors with programming and people that are affirming and supportive. Because of COVID-19, SAGE has moved their programming online. SAGE Metro Portland hosts social gatherings, fitness classes and trivia nights with the Portland Sisters on queer culture and local history. SAGE also offers help for seniors seeking support with medical needs, housing, and care coordination. A hotline for seniors looking for an instant connection is run by SAGE’s national office.

SAGE Metro Portland is participating in a new program called SAGEConnect that matches a volunteer with an LGBTQIA+ senior who wants someone to chat on the phone with to combat social isolation and loneliness. If you are interested in volunteering your time and meeting a new friend in the community, you can get in touch with SAGE Metro Portland at sage@friendlyhouseinc.org.