Laura Newland, executive director, DC Office of Aging and Community Living

Happy Pride!

Last week, I received a notice for my college class reunion, and it made me think about how much things have changed, just in my lifetime. When I was in high school and college, the idea that people could be with and marry whomever they wanted was an impossibility. My generation has witnessed an incredible change in acceptance of the LGBTQ community. And it’s all been possible because of our LGBTQ seniors. Our theme for this month is Louder & Prouder, #ageproud, in recognition of how seniors have paved the way for all of us to live freer and more open lives.

Join us on June 9th at the annual Pride Parade as we march with the Mayor’s Office and the Capital Pride Alliance in celebrating Gay Pride in the District. And for the first time this year, we are inviting older LGBTQ adults to ride along in our inaugural Senior Pride Trolley!

Then on Sunday, June 10th, be sure to stop by our DCOA table at the Pride Festival. We will be there all day to share information on the many programs and resources available to keep you healthy, active, and engaged across the city. Stop by and pick up a DCOA rainbow wristband to wear throughout the month (or all year!) to show your support for older LGBTQ adults.

The District is estimated to have the largest percentage of LGBTQ residents in the nation! And nearly a quarter of District residents identifying as LGBTQ are age 55 and up. This generation shaped our city and paved the way for LGBTQ residents of all ages, making D.C. a city where all are welcome, and all are celebrated.

This month is also an opportunity to recognize some the unique challenges that our LGBTQ seniors face today.  LGBTQ older adults are twice as likely to live alone, twice as likely to be single, and three to four times less likely to have children. We know how important family and strong community ties are to aging well, but the risk factors for social isolation affect LGBTQ older adults in disproportionate ways.

So, beyond the celebrations, we’re committed to real work and tackling these issues along with the community. Last year, we formed an LGBTQ Senior Advisory Committee with older LGBTQ residents, advocates, service providers, and government partners. The advisory committee worked together to identify needs in the community and make recommendations to the agency. Later this month, we’ll be announcing new programming, based on their recommendations. Programming will include monthly activities, entertainment, and learning opportunities around a meal, citywide events, and peer-led support groups across the city. Stay tuned for more information about programs for LGBTQ older adults.

We’ve come a long way together and made such incredible progress as a city. And we recognize that we still have work to do to be more inclusive and accepting of all of the members of our community. I can’t wait to hear what the youngest generation will say twenty and thirty years from now about what they once thought was impossible for them. I hope that their impossibility becomes their reality, too. Can’t wait to see you at Pride!

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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