Supporting LGBTQ + seniors

2 MIN READ

Growing up in the 1950s was a challenge for Brian. He lived in what he describes as “a tough, working-class town,” and bullying was an all too common part of his life.

At an early age he felt attracted to other young men, but believed that would go away after he met and married a woman he loved.

In his 20s, while visiting his grandfather in the hospital, Brian discovered a 1964 issue of Life magazine that featured the story “Homosexuality in America.” That was the first time it became clear to him that he wasn’t alone.

There was no talk about homosexuality,” says Brian. “I didn’t know there was such a thing, and I didn’t understand someone could be gay."

Years later while visiting a friend in Toronto, he noticed a copy of Body Politic on his coffee table – a publication for Canada’s LGBTQ+ community. Brian had no idea his friend was gay. It was at that moment that he felt he could finally share his true self with someone.

“It was huge relief, that somebody I liked and valued and considered a friend, was gay,” he recalls. “Now I could communicate with him about something that was very personal about who I was.”

Today Brian volunteers to support Ottawa’s LGBTQ+ seniors, who he says face unique challenges such as isolation and discrimination.

He adds that as many do not have children to support them as they grow older, long-term care is of particular concern. In fact, a recent study revealed that less than half of Ottawa-area LGBTQ+ seniors feel they would be accepted by retirement community or care facility residents and staff.

“Many seniors have lived their lives in fear,” says Brian. “These feelings never go away.”

As a volunteer trainer for the United Way-funded Ottawa Senior Pride Network, Brian helps create safe spaces for LGBTQ+ seniors. He does this by training care providers to be aware and sensitive of the LGBTQ+ community’s needs.

“It’s really important that LGBTQ+ seniors are first of all seen, and that they are treated with dignity and respect,” he says.

Photo credit to University of Western Ontario.

Path to Pride is raising funds for vital local programs that support LGTBQ+ kids, families and seniors. Funds raised will support programs at Ten Oaks Project, Family Services Ottawa, and Ottawa Senior Pride Network.

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