PALM SPRINGS -- The Golden Rainbow continues to grow, not only in the numbers of clients being served and programs being offered, but also, in our affiliation with local, county, state, and national organizations.
This network is a valuable source of information and advocacy in many ways; the ongoing healthcare policy debate is a perfect example.
The proposed changes will affect different segments of the population differently. At the Golden Rainbow we want to be able to focus quickly and clearly on how these changes impact our LGBT community.
According to AARP, the health-care bill will now provide free annual exams and free preventive care. This is especially important for LGBT older adults, as this population is half as likely to have health insurance as their straight counterparts. This data comes from the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation at UCLA.
The new, voluntary insurance program to assist seniors to remain in their homes and communities and maintain a higher quality of life is particularly relevant to LGBT seniors, who studies show encounter discrimination in residential care facilities.
According to the California Gay Network – of which the Golden Rainbow is a member – the specific provisions we wanted were not included in the approved legislation. However, the LGBT older adult will benefit from the expansion of coverage and improved access to health insurance, which is a significant barrier to the LGBT older adult. The California Network is a consortium of LGBT centers across the state whose members teleconference three times a month to share information and best practices.
The Golden Rainbow is also a member of the Riverside County LGBT Task Force. This group meets monthly to discuss mental health issues confronting the gay population of Riverside County.
On the national level, the Golden Rainbow has become California's first affiliate of SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders).
SAGE is the oldest and largest LGBT older adult advocate and service provider. Their leadership met with President Obama and worked for the formation of a national LGBT Older Adult Resource Guide. It is through SAGE that the Golden Rainbow is able to access best practices, advocacy, and the latest national and international research on LGBT issues.
And while The Golden Rainbow is fortunate to be on the receiving end of emerging regional and national LGBT policy information, we have also been able to provide direct input. Earlier this spring, the Riverside County Office on Aging released Out and Gray: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Elders of Riverside County. This report was collaboration between the Office on Aging, the California Department of Aging, the Goldman Institute of Aging, and the Golden Rainbow Senior Center.
According to Ed Walsh, executive director of the Riverside County office on aging, LGBT older adults are fearful or mistrustful of traditional social service delivery services. The report’s stated aim is to “promote healthy, successful aging and optimal functional independence for the disfranchised, at-risk, older population.”
The report’s executive summary lists findings that are hardly news to our community; what is significant is that these concerns are publicly acknowledged as relevant factors in shaping public policy:
The source of this data is worth noting: The Golden Rainbow took the lead in disseminating this questionnaire. In addition to asking program participants at our center to complete the form, the questionnaire was given out to several other organizations – all of them local.
These groups included The L Spot, Opera in the Park, Pride Festival, Desert Business Association, Desert Dyners, Prime Timers of the Desert, Silver Daddies, and Metropolitan Community Church. It was a tremendous effort for small organization like the Golden Rainbow to accomplish such a task, but the investment of our time and energy was well worth the research gathered.
Let’s take note, then, that a 33 percent response reporting fear of being openly LGBT was reported right here – not in a red state, not in a rural area, but in a community that's known as a gay mecca. Many of our friends and neighbors, having come of age before the LGBT civil rights movement that began with Stonewall in 1969, have lived a large part of their lives in a far more hostile cultural environment than younger generations.
Many baby boomers also struggle with family of origin issues and with internalized homophobia – issues that may be mitigated but are not resolved merely by living in an area with a significant LGBT population. The Golden Rainbow is proud to have taken part in much collaboration to identify the unique unmet needs of this population. More importantly, our mission aims to offer solutions for the unique needs of our underserved community.