Friendly House in Portland Oregon hosted the Gay and Grey Expo on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016. The event was designed for LGBT elders; those over 60. Opening the day was the Portland Lesbian Choir (PLC) as it sang “Fireworks” by Katy Perry. Then “What Matters,” a song that was featured in the “Matthew Shepherd Story,” written by Randi Driscoll.
The choir was lead by Mary McCarty. Two singers were Judie Franklin and Alison Hills. According to the website, 2016-17 is PLC’s 31st Season. The choir is a non-profit organization and is described as, “We perform music that affirms the value of all people regardless of gender, race, age, class or political affiliation and respect members’ feelings as they relate to these issues.”
Mya Chamberlin, Director of Community Services for the Friendly House explained, the program began in 2001 and ran yearly. However, due to budgeting, the expo is run on a biennial basis.
The event offered LGBT seniors the access and information for various services that the elder community needs and may not have the opportunity to reach. The day was packed with exhibitors, presentations and speakers. Massage chair and a photo booth were also featured. Lunch was provided by Meals on Wheels. Flu vaccines were provided by Rite Aid’s Tracey Jansen, Wellness Ambassador from store 5364 in Keizer, Oregon. She was joined by Amanda who was giving the injections.
The primary focus was housing. Chamberlin stated there is a need for reliable, safe, LGBT culturally competent living situations, whether they are assisted living facilities, nursing homes, in-home care, and retirement communities.
LGBT seniors are not the only people in need of these living situations to be safe. Family members, those who are gay themselves, often fear the staff knowing because they might mistreat or abuse their loved ones. The reverse is also a big concern.
- Finding your LGBT Friendly Home: Teaching participants how to become their own advocates. Introduction to the Housing Committee’s work on behalf of gay seniors.
- Long Term Care Options: What options are available? How affordable are they? Attendees explored options and costs, they also were told about the culture, location, and comfort. One of the speakers was a Hospice Care Community Liaison.
- Building Community and Family: With isolation being the biggest contributing factor that people face as they age, teaching LGBT seniors how isolating causes damage. They were offered information about how to seek out social opportunities within their community.
- Creating Home: “A 101-level workshop in how to assess, decide, and implement changes to improve the aging process and need in the home environment.”
- Aging in Place: Naomi Sacks, MSW from the Oregon Department if Human Services; Aging and People with Disabilities presented this information. She provided and overview of the logistics of choosing to stay in one’s residence and what that entails.
- A Renter’s Reality – Affordable Housing: This panel was set up with the intent to help LGBT seniors understand and process eligibility requirements for affordable housing. They discussed waiting lists. Further discussion included understanding the relationship between property owners and their property management companies; how a senior could use that to their advantage.
- Co-Housing 101: Participants learned what the term cohousing means. The presenters talked about why this type of housing might be a great match for LGBT adults. They explained how a community of co-housed residents comes about and what this option looks like.
- Out of the Box: Explores alternatives to traditional housing, such as, house sharing, manufactured homes, RVs, and other types that fit an LGBT person’s lifestyle.
What is Friendly House
Friendly House is a non-profit organization that serves many of the community needs. They strive to build community opportunities and lifelong learning.
- It has children’s programs; playgroup for ages 0-3, preschool for 3-5-year-olds, an after-school and summer day camp for grades K-5.
- There is a community recreation and education program. The center has fitness and gym facilities, rentals, internet center, activities for adults, elder folks, and kids.
- Seniors can take advantage of the programs, especially for them. These include case management, assistance, and information.
- In addition to those above, Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE) adds housing resources and activities.
- “Friendly Fruit Jam” is a fundraising activity that helps support the preschool. It is sold at Friendly House and several local grocers. The berries are donated by local growers. Volunteers pick them and make the jam. The program is supported by sponsors, which cover the sugar, pectin, jars, and labels. This ensures that every dollar goes to the on-site preschool.
The Gay and Grey Expo was attended by many LGBT folks, most were elderly but there were others there who said their was to plan ahead. Thinking about the future is not something that should be put off at any age. Representatives from AARP, Home Instead, Providence ElderPlace, The LGBT’s Q Center, Alzheimer’s Association, TriMet Public Transportation, and more sponsored the event.
By Cathy Milne
Interview: Sept. 23, 2016, Mya Chamberlin Director Community Services Friendly House
Gay and Grey Expo.com: Saturday, Oct. 1, at Friendly House
National Resource Center on LGBT Aging: Resources, Training, About Us
Friendly House Newsletter: Building community, one friend at a time.
plchoir.org: Portland Lesbian Choir
Images Courtesy of Cathy Milne’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Black and White Inset Image Courtesy of Friendly House – Used With Permission