Diversity with a Difference: Conference on Aging

On October 17, 1994 CLAGS co-sponsored (with the American Society on Aging and SAGE) a one-day conference at the CUNY Graduate School centered on the theme “Serving Aging Gay Men and Lesbians.” Older lesbians and gay men are among the most invisible members of our community, and their healthcare and social service needs are often overlooked both by providers of services to the aged and by the gay and lesbian community itself. Yet researchers estimate that one to three m iII ion older Americans are in fact gay men or lesbians. The conference was keynoted by Martin Duberman, Adrian Hall, and Joan Nestle. Nine workshops were offered on such varying topics as “Sexual Concerns by Older Gay Men and Lesbians,” ” Living With Three Strikes Against You: Older Gay or Lesbian Persons of Color,” and “AIDS and Aging.” Among the score of workshop facilitators were Risa Denenberg, Charles T. Davis, Martha Adams Sullivan, John J. McNeil, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Judith Turkel, Arthur Grossman, Vincent Delgado, and Carlos Martinez. A number of significant issues were raised, explored, and debated. Are social service policies based on heterosexual norms? If so, to what extent do they ignore or minimize the special needs of older lesbians and gay men? Is ageism as pronounced in the gay world as in the straight – and if so in what ways does it add to the burdens of growing old for members of our community? Along with raising awareness about such issues, the conference tried to remain action-oriented. The 125 health and social service providers who participated sought to develop a set of recommendations for presentation to the 1995 White House Conference on Aging.