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Gwynne Ann Unruh is a former award winning reporter at the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

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You may think bullying is for kids. But bullying is also an issue among older LGBTQ+ adults; and when added to prejudice, bias and lack of awareness, a lot of the community’s seniors won’t go to senior centers or other places where seniors go. COVID has made the social isolation of older members of the LGBTQ community more acute. LGBTQ individuals are twice as likely to live alone and four times less likely to have children, making them particularly vulnerable to social isolation. Adding to the increased isolation are the barriers to accessing services for the community that are exacerbated by aging.

Paul Oostenbrug, a member of the SAGE Albuquerque Advisory Committee, said SAGE, a key partner of Equality New Mexico Foundation and an affiliate of SAGE USA, is doing a lot to connect socially isolated older LGBT adults. SAGE is starting a Friendly Caller Program where LGBTQ elders are paired with volunteers for phone conversations to help reduce the negative effects and heightened risks of social isolation.

“We received funding for the project through senior affairs from the Area Agency on Aging and are starting a friendly caller program to check in with people and refer them to services. We’re hoping to give out loaner cell phones to give them a way to connect to our virtual meetings,” Oostenbrug said

SAGE also does cultural competency training for senior-serving institutions, assisted living facilities, nursing homes and home care services. “Our goal is to also begin to do these trainings at low cost or subsidized housing venues, because housing is such a challenging issue for most people in Albuquerque, but particularly LGBTQ elderly,” he said. The Aging with Pride Training Curriculum covers areas of understanding needed for organizations and providers that serve older LGBTQ people.

SAGE ABQ Meetup at meetup.com/Albuquerque-LGBT-Elders/ offers several opportunities to meet up with members of the LGBTQ community. Meetups are in person or virtual. RSVP through Meetup before the event start time to be admitted into the “Going” status. Participants bring a folding chair for social distance seating and their own drinks and snacks. All in-person participants wear face masks until they are seated. Meetups this month include a special Gay Pride monthly meeting on the Summer Solstice, live and in the real-world.

SAGE’s recent needs assessment showed people don’t want dedicated services just for LGBT seniors. “We want to access the same services that everybody else accesses. We just want those services to be respectful and responsive. Nothing special, just be nice,“ Oostenbrug explained.

There are resources available for LGBTQ ranging from financial support to identifying inclusive and affirming housing to hotlines with judgement-free support. Access online local resource information and peer-to-peer support specifically for LGBT elders at sage@GLBThotline.org. By phone SAGE Elder Hotline offers a safe place to talk (1-888-234-SAGE). ElderCare.gov offers a comprehensive resource in local community resources.

A new community space at the former Aux Dog Theatre space in Nob Hill is being transformed into the Black Cat LGBTQIA Community Center. “There is at last an LGBT community center. When we have opportunities to gather and support each other we all do better,” Oostenbrug said.

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