Friday, April 16, 2010

NYT News: Aging and Gay, and Facing Prejudice in Twilight

Aging and Gay, and Facing Prejudice in Twilight

What should institutions do to help elderly, gay clients?

James Estrin/The New York Times

Even now, at 81 and with her memory beginning to fade, Gloria Donadello recalls her painful brush with bigotry at an assisted-living center in Santa Fe, N.M. Sitting with those she considered friends, “people were laughing and making certain kinds of comments, and I told them, ‘Please don’t do that, because I’m gay.’”

Jalna Perry of Boston said her guard was always up in nursing homes. 

The result of her outspokenness, Ms. Donadello said, was swift and merciless. “Everyone looked horrified,” she said. No longer included in conversation or welcome at meals, she plunged into depression. Medication did not help. With her emotional health deteriorating, Ms. Donadello moved into an adult community nearby that caters to gay men and lesbians.

So that is where Lisa Krinsky, the director of the L.G.B.T. Aging Project in Massachusetts, begins her “cultural competency” training sessions, including one last month at North Shore Elder Services in Danvers. 

In the last two years, Ms. Krinsky has trained more than 2,000 employees of agencies serving the elderly across Massachusetts. She presents them with common problems and nudges them toward solutions.  

“We need to be open and sensitive,” Ms. Krinsky said, “but not wrap them in a rainbow flag and make them march in a parade.”

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