Spectrum partnering with students to help LGBTQ seniors
The community group has received $25,000 in funding to help reduce isolation
A Waterloo Region LGBTQ community group is using some new federal funding to help seniors in their community.
Spectrum recently received $25,000 to fight isolation among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer seniors.
Isolation in seniors isn't uncommon, but LGBTQ seniors are may face additional challenges, like having been cut off from their family or not having children, according to Spectrum board member Cait Glasson.
"It can be difficult to find a partner as you get older, which is made harder for LGBT seniors because there aren't very many," Glasson told CBC K-W's The Morning Edition host Craig Norris.
This population grew up during a time when it was still illegal be a homosexual in Canada, Glasson said, so there's a lot of fear.
"We're talking about people who are, quite frankly, often afraid to be out. And we find that people are going back into the closet to go into retirement homes because they're afraid of what the reactions of the other residents or staff members might be," Glasson said.
To try and combat the isolation and fear, Spectrum is taking an intergenerational approach, Glasson said. The group is partnering with area high school students to learn about creating Gender Sexuality Awareness (GSA) groups, which are also known as Gay-Straight Alliances.
"Our goal is to try and create GSAs in the retirement homes," Glasson said.
Glasson hopes the students can help them learn how to create safe spaces so "if a person isn't out they can still show up to the meeting and not have to out themselves to do it."
Spectrum's Aging with Pride committee is also working with places like retirement homes to teach their staff or anyone interested in how to make a more inclusive environment, Glasson said.
Some changes may seem simple, Glasson said, like a staff member discussing their spouse instead of husband or wife.
"A lot of little things trying to create the safe space and a place where they can be themselves."