On the final day of the First National Convening on POC/LGBT Aging, hosted by GRIOT Circle in collaboration with AARP at the Brickfield Conference Center, participants tackled the challenges of forming the first national professional network and shaping the mission and vision of the network; Laurens Van Sluytman, PhD facilitated this process.
The morning began with a facilitated discussion about Positive Aging, with a panel led by Bonnie Harrison, MSHC. Panelist Dr. Kyaien O. Conner, from the University of Pittsburg School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, delivered an excerpt of a highly impressive and comprehensive report that contained startling health disparity statistics on the POC/LGBT communities. Her research findings are a wake-up call to the national policy makers to address these critical and frightening statistics as the nation becomes more elderly.
The Honorable US Senator Benjamin Cruz of Guam, hit home the need for the federal government to recognize marriage and create equality for the LGBT community, specifically for seniors. None of the 1400 benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples are provided to LGBT couples, which in turn has dire implications on LGBT seniors who have lost their partners and are left with income losses, sometimes as much as 70%.
Trans-elder activist Helena Bushong contributed to the dialogue on health and economic disparities within the Transgender community, and the complications of living with comorbidities, as the lack of research in Transgender communities can prove to be fatal in some cases.
Nancy K. Bereano, retired publisher, gave the keynote address about the value of community and support as we age. She referenced a dear friend, who at 62, was diagnosed with cancer and built a network of friends to support her with the quality of her end of life process. GRIOT Circle has taken those recommendations to heart and will incorporate them into our Buddy-2-Buddy program going forward. This area was the missing link in the codification of this particular program.
This session sparked thought-provoking questions around organizational self-identity, as well as capacity levels available to support the future development of the network. Some of the questions participants presented and attempted to address include: Who will develop a mission and policy statement? Are we going to be volunteer-driven, how is that going to look and how exactly will the committees be formed?
How do we provide funding, technical and organizational support to each other on a national level (i.e. AARP/ ASA relationships)? What would those relationships look like? How do we handle the issue of members’ intellectual property sharing, as well as, broader issues of information sharing, including research findings, programs and services to promote the strength of organizations in the network?
Please revisit our blog for additional reports, outcomes, updates and first-person offerings from participants at the First National POC LGBT National Convening.