Expanding Quality Care for LGBTQ+ and HIV-positive Seniors

Originally Published: 08/01/2019

One of the greatest challenges facing our nation, state, and community is meeting the needs of our rapidly aging population. As the large Baby Boom Generation enters retirement, more people than ever need help and support to remain active, engaged members of our community. Unfortunately, for too many Minnesotans – especially LGBT and HIV positive people – significant barriers exist that make aging more complicated, scary, and even dangerous. After decades of fighting for recognition, safety, health, and the right to love, those who gave so generously of their time and resources to LGBT and HIV justice are now stepping in to the later stages of life and must be treated with the respect and dignity they so deserve.

Meeting this challenge is at the heart of JustUs Health’s mission. Building a healthy community starts with building healthy people. Building healthy people means supporting who they are as a whole person. We envision a community where all of us – including our aging friends and neighbors – experience health and wellness in powerfully inclusive environments regardless of race, gender, or sexuality. Below you’ll see examples of this work, as well as ways you can help. Together, we can ensure that all of our LGBT and HIV positive communities have what they need to thrive. Thank you for joining us in this vital effort.

Jeremy Hanson Willis, CEO, JustUs Health

Get to Know Training to Serve

Since 2008, Training to Serve (TTS) has worked to improve the quality of life of aging LGBT Minnesotans. Through culturally-responsive, impactful trainings, TTS has reached over 12,000 health care professionals. Last year, JustUs Health was fortunate enough to welcome TTS in to its programming and include HIV-aging education to the already popular curriculum.

Senior care providers are challenged to critically think about how welcoming and affirming their services are to people who identify as LGBT or who are HIV-positive. Are all new residents assumed to be heterosexual unless they volunteer otherwise? Do forms have only two gender options? Do medical care providers understand the dynamics of HIV medication? If the senior homes are founded in religious principles, do they welcome all who need assistance? And much more.

Marsha Berry, trainer with TTS, notes how necessary this type of awareness and education is, “Many providers don’t realize they are serving LGBT older adults. Understanding the unique history of older LGBT individuals can help providers assess needs and provide quality care.” TTS brings LGBT and HIV-positive aging adults in to the forefront and out from the shadows.

Training to Serve is the only organization focused on training providers on the needs of aging LGBT and HIV-positive communities, so incorporating with JustUs Health was a perfect fit. Megan Mueller, JustUs Health Education and Prevention Manager, observes, “The older folks in our community are the people who have paved the way for the progress we’ve seen in LGBT equality and it only makes sense to incorporate their needs into our mission. When people know more about what it means to be LGBT or HIV-positive, when you can explain and truly humanize the experience, it makes people better equipped in their profession and life to treat our older community members the way they deserve.”

One Supporter’s Story

Training to Serve’s 2019 Annual Benefit Premier Sponsor: Dr. Tom Knabel and Kent Allin

Dr. Knabel and his husband know how Training to Serve’s education can break down barriers and lead to a better future for our aging LGBT community.

“As an aging member of our community, I have begun to develop a passion around helping to ensure that my fellow aging LGBT folks are able to continue to express their complete selves and lead lives free from discrimination even in circumstances of declining physical and mental capabilities.”

Dr. Knabel understands the importance of this work, as it touches his life and the lives of his loved ones. “My need to interact with the aging care environment that Training to Serve is helping to create is not in some fuzzy distant future, but more imminent. Every member of the LGBT community… has a high likelihood of interacting, either themselves or through friends and loved ones, with aging care services.”

We thank Dr. Knabel and Mr. Allin for their years of dedication and service to our community. Like many in our community, they want to make sure that our community can enjoy their later years in safe, welcoming environments where they can be themselves and love who they love. Thank you for helping to make that a reality.