Serving Our Seniors

Image courtesy of Training To Serve

Training to Serve teaches service providers how to meet the needs of GLBT seniors.

Founded in 2009, Training to Serve formed to prepare service providers to properly serve GLBT seniors based on the community’s needs. After nine years of service, TTS has trained over 10,000 providers in research-based GLBT aging sensitivity training. According to TTS Executive Director Rajean Moone, TTS has recently expanded their work to also included advocacy of GLBT seniors.

“TTS has provided official comments on topics such as the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants and the recent elder abuse legislative work in Minnesota,” Moone says. “Most recently, on April 25, TTS hosted an LGBT Aging Community Conversation to help understand advocacy needs of LGBT older adults and family caregivers.”

Moone says TTS originally formed based on two local research studies. One study found that 9 out of 10 GLBT older adults did not know if they would receive safe services if their GLBT status was known. That number has changed to 8 out of 10, which is still a high percentage of GLBT seniors. The other study found that nearly all providers had never received training on GLBT aging. As a result, representatives from the University of Minnesota, Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging, and several advocacy groups came together to form TTS.

Because the life experiences of GLBT seniors vary from other seniors, it is important for TTS to properly train providers to better understand how to care for these clients.

“To some extent the [experiences and struggles of GLBT seniors] are similar and unique to other age groups. GLBT older adults have experienced a history of systemic oppression and discrimination. Until recently, everyday areas such as housing and jobs allowed legal discrimination against GLBT people. As a result, in order to thrive, many GLBT older adults had to stay deeply hidden in the closet. Even today, many GLBT older adults experience significant fear in accessing services from a provider for fear of being disrespected or worse, abused or neglected,” Moone says.

According to Moone, GLBT seniors continue to face many disparities in comparison to non-GLBT seniors and even younger GLBT individuals.

“GLBT older adults have significant economic, social and health disparities compared to their non-GLBT peers including higher rates of poverty, diminished social networks, higher rates of drinking and smoking, higher rates of cancer and obesity, and less utilization of routine health care,” he says.

People can support TTS’ mission by encouraging their own health care providers to become trained on GLBT sensitivity for older adults. If they haven’t already been trained, you can refer them to TTS.

“TTS is a nonprofit organization that provides training for professionals including continuing education hours that count towards professional licensure. We also invite the community to join us in celebrating 10,000 people trained at our annual dinner and auction on May 17th. If they cannot attend, we encourage the community to support TTS by offering an auction item or by donating to help us further our work. Details can be found on our website,” Moone says.

GLBT seniors and their families can find organizations that want to be known as GLBT welcoming providers in the Twin Cities LGBT Aging Resource Guide, which can be found on TTS’ website, www.trainingtoserve.org.

TTS publishes a new Twin Cities LGBT Aging Resource Guide every other year with updates. TTS has also trained the Senior LinkAge Line, Minnesota’s free hotline for older adults and family members to learn about resources and help navigate complex health care systems. This hotline can be reached at 1-800-333-2433.

GLBT seniors have a different history and life experiences than other seniors, so why should their health care providers treat them the same? With the help of TTS, more providers will be able to understand and properly care for GLBT seniors.

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