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How you can help
Helping and supporting LGBT+ elders requires action from both the queer community and the government.
In the US, the American Psychological Association is working to provide mental health resources to the queer community across the country.
However, so many older people within the community still face issues like living alone, worrying about discrimination from medical professionals, and not receiving their full benefits if they aren’t officially married to their partner.
It’s clear that the government and nonprofit agencies need to do more, but it’s also clear this won’t happen overnight. It requires sustained pressure from advocacy groups to push for more change.
For the time-being, you can be a supportive figure in the community by reaching out to the elders you know and seeing if there are any ways you can help.
One of the best ways for seniors to fight depression is to maintain social interaction. Providing a listening ear or engaging in good conversation can make a world of difference to the overall wellbeing of our elders.
You might even make some new friends who enrich your own life.
You can also help our elders build better habits by:
- Prioritizing good sleep
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Keeping active
- Maintaining their hobbies and interests
When to recommend outside help
It’s great to help others, but we also need to be aware of our own needs and limitations. It’s simply not possible to be everything to all people at all times.
If you know an older LGBT+ person who seems to be struggling with isolation, loneliness, or depression, you may want to suggest that they speak to an expert.
Thankfully, many mental health professionals specialize in queer issues and fight back against discrimination.
Your older friends and family members might not know about those professionals, especially if they live in more rural areas, so you may need to do some research on their behalf.
It can help if you do a little judicious signposting, because too much information can be overwhelming. Try to find a local service that deals with older LGBT+ people, or which caters to their specific interests and needs.
Consider the availability and accessibility of services, where possible. It may make sense to take advantage of so-called “teletherapy” options (e.g., therapy via video or phone) so they know they can always have someone to talk to.
You can also suggest other online communities that support LGBT+ mental health initiatives. Often, these communities can provide a wealth of lived experience, which may help people navigate the conflicting or disjointed information they may find online.
Respect and recognition
It’s essential for the LGBT+ community to remember its history, and to recognize those who have been through it.
Elders within the LGBT+ community have seen history unfold. We need to protect and value their insight through safe and specialized mental health support.
Taking the time to get to know our elders can be incredibly rewarding. Helping them access the services they need to maintain their wellbeing and independence can make a difference to the entire community.