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The LGBT Older Adult Summit has a spiced-up itinary this year for the day-long gathering on June 22. The summit takes place at the MSU Detroit campus from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and is free of charge.
This year’s gathering includes workshops on healthcare, employment and volunteer opportunities and a new addition: Sex for LGBT Older Adults. Session titles include: “Enjoying Outrageously Satisfying Mature Sex,” “Remaining Independent and Happy In Your Home,” and “Estate Planning in a Post DOMA World – Let’s Hope.”
Spicing up the summit is based on feedback from a prior participant. “During one of our planning meetings a committee member voiced concern that the topics we were considering were too negative and ‘old age thinking.’ He suggested that he and his contemporaries would not find any interest in attending a conference that focused on such seriously negative subjects – so we asked what he would like to see/hear – and sex at any age was his response. Since the theme of this year’s summit is ‘Living in the Spirit of Now’ – it was perfect,” said Judy Lewis, coordinator of the event.
Attorney Jay Kaplan of the American Civil Liberties Union will be the keynote speaker and Don Nadel, a graduate of the Cleveland School of Music, who has been playing piano since the age of three, will be providing music during registration/breakfast and at lunch. Meals are complimentary for those participating in the summit.
Last year over 120 seniors participated, and this year the summit will include healthcare and service professionals, with special workshops to engage them as well. The work is personal to Lewis, who knows first-hand the fears of aging in a world that is not always accepting.
“Folks my age are less likely to have children, and often must rely on ‘families of choice.’ There is a great deal of stress when we are unable to care for ourselves and must ask for help from strangers – especially when we hear about all of the bullying and abuse that potentially exists and the fear of rejection and isolation in older adult facilities, from residents and from caregivers,” Lewis said. “The LGBT Older Adult Coalition initiated this summit in order to educate LGBT older adults about the resources that exist – and to educate professionals about the needs of LGBT older adults.”
Lewis describes herself as “an old broad, but cute as a button” who is 66 years young. “I’ve been an out lesbian for many years, but recently – when I needed to be in the hospital – I suddenly felt very exposed and vulnerable and concerned that I would be treated poorly because I was Jewish (in a Catholic hospital) and gay,” she said.
Her work with the coalition gives her a chance to tackle discrimination head-on, and to reassure others that they aren’t alone. “I believe that the LGBT Older Adult Coalition and the Older Adult Summit have been highly successful in several ways. We have brought people together who may never have met through any other means. We have created a vehicle that has begun to be acknowledged at a statewide level. Out voices are being heard locally and in Lansing. At the end of the day, we all want to be treated with dignity and respect. It is my sincere belief that the work we are doing will be a big step in that direction.”
The Third Annual LGBT Older Adult Summit is sponsored by the LGBT Older Adult Coalition, Between The Lines/PrideSource, Area Agency on Aging 1-B, Affirmations Senior Koffee Klatch, The Detroit Elder Project at KICK, the ACLU and The Gay Elders of Southeast Michigan/GESEM (a pre-curser to SAGE.)
Register at http://lgbtoasummit2013.eventbrite.com