Challenge of aging amplified for gay community

Published: March 23, 2015

delaware online
Jen Rini
Original Article:

Robyn Harland, 70, admits her knees are going a bit, but she’s still the same spitfire she was in her twenties. She likes girls and doesn’t care who knows it.

She feels that who she lays next to at night shouldn’t influence how her primary care doctor treats her aches and pains or who she sits next to during bingo at the Newark Senior Center.

"Quite frankly I don’t [care] who knows what," she said. "My lifestyle, that should not play into that. We are all getting old, it doesn’t matter if we are straight or gay."

But not all LGBTQ seniors are as open as Harland. In fact, most aren’t, equality advocates say, and instead fear discrimination as they transition into long-term care settings and rely on consistent contact with medical professionals.

The vulnerability is enough to make someone who has been out for 30 years, retreat back into the closet, says Bob Martz, community coordinator for United Way of Delaware and LGBTQ activist.

"It’s particularly difficult to be getting old. So many of us had to live in the closet for such a long period of time. Many of us were rejected from our families. Many of us lost partners during the AIDS epidemic 30 years ago," said Martz, who turns 70 at the end of March.

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