The Rev. Dale Brown, chaplain at UCH’s Trinity Community at Beavercreek; the Rev. Beth Long-Higgins of the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging; and Dickie Wilson, board member of Rainbow Elder Care of Greater Dayton accept the award.

The Ohio Area Agencies on Aging has recognized four organizations for a unique partnership that brought the first statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender aging conference to Ohio.

United Church Homes’ Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging, Area Agency on Aging, PSA 2, based in Dayton, Rainbow Elder Care of Greater Dayton, Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County and  received the 2019 Outstanding Area Agency on Aging/Provider Partnership Award. The recognition was the culmination of their collaborative work on the Miami Valley LGBT Horizons of Aging Summit, which focused on issues facing LGBT older adults.

The summit was a two-day conference in February 2019 at Sinclair Conference Center in Dayton. The event focused on helping LGBT older adults avoid discrimination in navigating healthcare and housing systems and stay “out” as they age. It was an educational opportunity for the LGBT community, service and healthcare providers, and their allies to foster equality and dignity for these often-underserved members of the greater community.

“The 2019 Miami Valley LGBT Horizons of Aging Summit focused on the unique challenges LGBT older adults face and how to develop cultural sensitivity in their caregivers and the general public,” said Larke Recchie, CEO of the Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

Rainbow Elder Care of Greater Dayton works with southwest Ohio organizations, service/healthcare providers and senior living communities to help them better understand, serve and affirm older LGBT adults.

“Understanding a person’s background, experiences and life journey is important to providing person-centered care,” said Jerry Mallicoat, board chair for Rainbow Elder Care and LGBTQ Health Initiatives Manager for Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County. “For LGBT older adults, that journey has often been one fraught with discrimination, hatred, fear and even life-threatening experiences. Over time, such experiences can lead to serious health issues due to the chronic stress of living as part of a marginalized community, particularly considering that LGBT people are also part of other communities such as African-Americans, Latinx, Jews and those living with differing abilities, among others.”

The Rev. Beth Long-Higgins, executive director of the Parker Center, said the summit was the next step for United Church Homes in its journey to welcome all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. UCH has begun implementing SAGECare cultural sensitivity training for staff in its 75 senior living and affordable housing communities. UCH is also certified as an Open and Affirming organization in the United Church of Christ.

“It’s a justice issue,” Long-Higgins said. “Those of us who do not identify as LGBT need to be aware that people who are LGBT do not have the same protections as the rest of us — throughout their entire lives.”

Except for state employment protection, there currently are no statewide legal protections for LGBT people in Ohio, including older adults.

“We want to be sure that anyone serving older LGBT people appreciates the trauma many in this community have faced throughout their lives and provides culturally competent and humble care,” Mallicoat said. “Ultimately, we want to ensure that as LGBT people age, they can continue to live fully affirmed lives as out and equal citizens who can enjoy the services they deserve and, in many cases, have helped pay for throughout their lives.”

The next Summit is planned for November 2020.