In the Austin community on the Westside of Chicago, Father Chris Griffin serves a diverse congregation of elders, adults and youth at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church. St. Martin’s is an open and affirming space offering a safe haven for LGBTQ people. In the shadow of the Orlando shooting, Father Chris speaks with me about the senior ministry team and the importance of embracing our elders and their families of choice during this emotional time.
Q: How does St. Martin’s embrace the LGBTQ elder community? Fr. Chris: Our seniors play an important role within the various ministries of the church..... Read More
The Power of Generations, Part I: Grandchildren & Grandparents
I am carrying my eight-month old grandson around the house, trying to help him let go and go to sleep. As I chant “Ne-ne Ko-ko, Ne-ne Ko-ko, Ne-ne Ko-ko, Yoh-oh” (sleep baby, sleep baby) over and over, I remember my grandmother carrying me on her back before my afternoon nap, chanting the same thing. I can almost feel myself in both roles at the same time – grandchild, grandparent. A special magnetism helps span these generational roles.
Just Enough Distance While my relationships with son, daughter and elderly mother are very active and dominated by the present, when I interact with my grandson and my granddaughter I’m often thinking about my past and their future. I am remembering my.... Read More
LGBTQ Families of Choice Devastated By an Act of Terrorism
This morning I woke to sadness and heartbreak, hoping still that the nightmare was not a reality. As I searched for morning traffic reports, all stations and channels were reporting updates on the weekend tragedy that rocked the nation and hit my LGBT community at the core. The Orlando shooting not only penetrated the hearts of so many families of origin, but even more families of choice.
I heard a disturbing request by officials asking that only “family” contact their information hotline, as they are attempting to confirm identification of the victims. I was saddened to think that many families of choice may be the only family that confirms the identity of some victims. The reality is that our.... Read More
My mother is 94 years old and was admitted to hospice care a month ago. Getting there was a huge life/medical milestone for her and our family involving multiple doctor visits, calls and meetings with staff from two assisted living facilities, calls to her HMO and the hospice organization, meetings with hospice staff, emails and meetings with family members, forms signed and sent, and endless scheduling. Mom ended up moving from one facility to a sister facility with a higher level of care, so I also organized packing, movers and family help within a compressed time period. It was a withering amount of logistics.
Reflecting upon this recent period, I glean three key learnings about how to navigate this transition.... Read More
I recently read an article written about a family gathering around their mother as she was dying. I was struck by its vulnerable and loving perspective, but most of all by a concept Heather Plett called “holding space.” According to Plett’s article, “holding space” is about supporting another human being without “judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome.” Holding space means “we open our hearts, offer unconditional support and let go of judgment and control.”
I remember holding space for my mom when she was dying. I didn’t know that a concept like this existed, but I knew.... Read More
Sunday, September 13th is Grandparents Day, and at the Diverse Elders Coalition, we are so grateful for our grandparents: whether you say grandmother, grandfather, abuela, abuelo, oba-chan, ojisan, lola, lolo, yeay, taa, tutu, halmoni, halapoji, bibi, babu, awa, tata, pog, yawg, yéyé, nǎinai, or another term of endearment, the elders in our lives have served as role models, supporters and caregivers.
Grandparents are more than just pinched cheeks and comfort food, though. The grandparents in our lives can be a valuable resource as we figure out how to make the world a better place. I love this quote from Janet Mock’s book Redefining Realness, in which she talks about the struggles her relatives have faced, and the role.... Read More
Why Marriage Equality Matters for LGBT Older Adults
Many don’t know that same-sex spouses in non-marriage states still don’t qualify for all the same federal benefits that their different sex counterparts enjoy, simply because they are married to someone of the same sex. This is an issue that comes up in the context of Social Security, Veterans Administration, and some Medicare benefits. And it is all the more important for LGBT older adults who face pronounced poverty and lack of access to culturally competent healthcare.
This topic is one that our Executive Director, Michael Adams, examines in detail with his latest.... Read More
White House Conference on Aging: This Time it’s Personal
The last time the White House Conference on Aging happened, back in 2005, I was personally in a major life transition: I had just taken a new job, moved across the country, and was too busy planning my new life in Los Angeles as a young 30-something to think about the Washington, DC I was leaving behind, much less be concerned with the “aging communities” that I was probably too self-absorbed to care about at the time.
Ten years later, as the White House Conference on Aging gears up for its once-in-a-decade incarnation this summer, my life has changed dramatically in many ways. With my parents in retirement age and me well into my forties, I am much more.... Read More
Diversity Within Diversity: The Uniqueness in Our Ethnic Elders
It is my privilege to have an opportunity to share some of my thoughts about what needs to be considered when serving ethnic minority elders. As service providers, it is imperative that we know where we find ourselves in relationship to these groups. Early on in my career as a professional educator, I learned the importance of achieving some sense of cultural competence, these days I think of it as cultural humility, if I were going to be effective as a practicing professional. Back in those days, Dr. Jose Gallegos, DSW, provided us with a model that highlighted the importance of understanding our beliefs and values and how these interfaced with or might.... Read More
Medicare & the Windsor Decision: Where do we stand?
Last year’s Windsor decision has triggered a series of ongoing changes that impact many of us on a day-to-day basis. For LGBT older adults, Medicare is one of the most critical Federal programs undergoing change. So where do Medicare recipients currently stand? Our Q&A with Casey Schwarz of the Medicare Rights Center answers some important questions.
Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude, reunions, and celebrations with family. However, many of us have ambivalent feelings about these family interactions. Our mixed feeling can range from the joy of re-connecting to anxiety around different values and expectations that exist within the family, especially between generations. This ambivalence may be experienced every day in multigenerational families, and statistics indicate that immigrant seniors are more likely to live in multi-generational households. Contrary to the stereotypical picture of a large, tight-knit immigrant family surrounding their elders with relevance and constant caregiving support, the nature of intergenerational relationships within immigrant families is more complex. Older.... Read More
Life Lessons from a Hmong Grandfather to His Granddaughter
The following is a guest post from SEARAC’s Bao Lor.
“Wake up, kids! It’s 6:30!” my grandpa said as he pulled off the blanket that covered my head. I moved around, pretending to stretch and then curling back into a ball. Through my squinted eyes, I could see that my siblings were still lying next to me. I popped my head up and looked at the alarm clock across the room. It read: 6:10. This was my daily routine growing up. I grew up with my grandparents taking care of me and my siblings since my parents were always so.... Read More