Senior Services Remain in Demand


Openhouse offers model for LGBT elders



An increasing number of LGBT seniors living in San Francisco and the Castro face a sense of being isolated from their peers and need help getting involved in the community. LGBT seniors also face the difficulty in finding affordable housing. Only one agency, Openhouse, is dedicated to helping LGBT seniors in many ways including developing economic security and these services are free.


Two other centers that reach out to the local LGBT seniors are similar in many ways. The Castro Senior Center provides services for seniors and caregivers and disabled adults. About 40 percent of the Center’s budget goes for the LGBT educational and recreational programs, while 5 percent of the 30th Street Senior Center is used for services for LGBT seniors. Both of these agencies provide referrals to social services, a congregate lunch and home-delivered meals.


“Lack of access to services and people with physical disabilities makes it even harder for them,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener. “Many seniors are low-income and they are unlikely to have an adult child take care of them. The percentage of people in the AIDS and HIV crisis affected the number of people that could help.”


All of these agencies are looking for additional funds so they can maintain their current programs and develop new ones. About half of the funding for these programs comes from the city’s Department of Aging and Adult Services plus federal funds.


“Last year the Department of Aging and Adult Services spent almost $7 million to fund 26 senior centers in San Francisco,” said Tom Nolan, a spokesman for the DOA.


Openhouse is dedicated to the LGBT senior population


There are approximately 20,000 LGBT seniors age 60 and older living in San Francisco. Openhouse was founded in San Francisco in 1998 to break down the barriers preventing LGBT seniors from accessing housing, health benefits, long-term care and other support services. It’s open to all members of the community who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and are 55 and older.


Temporarily located on the third floor of the LGBT Community Center, Openhouse served more than 2,000 LGBT seniors last year. Openhouse provides information and referral, case management, emotional support, friendly visitor services and robust community engagement activities including language and culture classes, support groups, outings, lunch socials, and much more to ensure that older LGBT adults get the compassionate care and support they need to age in community.


Through the Caring Connections Program, Openhouse matches a screened and trained volunteer with an older LGBT community member to provide ongoing companionship and emotional support.


Also, Openhouse offers a huge number of workshops to choose from, including housing assistance workshops, health and wellness seminars. They also review benefits for Medicare and Medi-Cal eligibility.


Castro Senior Center offers many services for older LGBT adults


Patrick Larkin, Director of Castro Senior Center, said “LGBT seniors face discrimination regardless of their neighborhood and generally have lower incomes and are more isolated than the larger population.”


About 40 percent of their clients are LGBT seniors. An LGBT group gathers monthly for social time and to discuss topics selected by participants. Guest speakers have included local commissioners and a member of the Board of Supervisors. They also offer lunches, film programs, trips, special presentations and parties.


The majority of clients are seniors who have some type of physical disability. There are specialized programs for individuals with developmental disabilities such as mental limitations, epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Their goal is to avoid premature institutionalization.


One of the seniors, Mary Rowe, 92, said, “I’ve been driving to the Center for more than a decade because I like the atmosphere. I’m a volunteer and I like socializing with the others, and lunch is good.”


Open Hand provides their free hot lunches.


30th Street Senior Center’s LGBT Connection


The Center began in 1979 when a small group of Nicaraguan seniors asked for a room in the 30th Street building to start a senior club. Now San Francisco’s largest multipurpose Senior Center, it served more than 5,000 seniors last year.


”While we don’t have a program specifically for LGBT seniors,” said Jane Grady, assistant director of the Center, “we do have a policy of inclusiveness and we are partners with Openhouse to offer a weekly arts group and monthly LGBT-themed film and the Castro Senior Center for the “Open Artists” program, movies, and the Always Active program taught by an instructor from San Francisco City College.


The day care center offers 50 activities from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in both English and Spanish. Case managers speak Spanish, Cantonese and Russian and about 60 percent of the participants are bilingual in Spanish. Hot lunches are served in a large dining room. Hot meals prepared by On Lok are also delivered in-home.


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Jan 2015



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