Caring for LGBTQia Elders

Dear Parity friends,

This past Sunday I had the honor of speaking to a group of volunteer caregivers at one of Parity’s longtime member congregations, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City.

We spent an hour in spirited conversation about this church’s longstanding ministries on behalf of the elderly (particularly the homebound) among its membership and in their midtown community. We talked about two of the particular challenges faced by our LGBTQia elders.
First, there is the frequent discrimination and stigma when it comes to housing, nursing and hospice care. I shared an example from my early years in ministry, when I did hospice chaplaincy. It helped that I was out to my supervisors, who intentionally paired me with LGBTQia clients the other chaplains tended to neglect or ignore.  One elderly gay gentleman could no longer speak, after a failed suicide attempt left half of his face disfigured and paralyzed.  We shared lots of prayers and tears.
Also, we talked about the persistent need for support and for a welcoming community to counter the isolation that is common to all aging populations. Too many LGBTQia people believe the lie that God hates them. Many older adults especially have told me that God has rejected them, so they reject God. Some of these same people -- not all, but some – had started to think about God again and were longing for relationship with the Divine. 
Congregations like Fifth Avenue that already have vital ministries with the elderly can provide the affirming, loving voice that many older LGBTQia individuals need to hear. And there are many more opportunities to serve this growing population, which any congregation can take on. For instance, consider a partnership with SAGE or another local organization that serves the LGBTQia community. Many of these secular organizations are wary of religion — you can testify to the loving God who embraces and loves all of creation, without limits.
Parity has compiled an extensive resource to help you and your congregation address the needs of your older LGBTQia members and neighbors. You’ll find it here.  Let us know how we can help. Let us know of your progress!

Rev. Marian Edmonds-Allen
Executive Director, Parity