The Utah Pride Center is doing its best for older LGBTQ+ people—but there’s much more to do

Each year, the Utah Pride Festival is filled with seemingly healthy, happy young members of the LGBTQ+ community, celebrating life and looking to the future.

There is no demographic data on the participants, but if you look around you can see that the audience at the parade and festival tends to be young. As are the staff and customers of the Utah Pride Center, which sponsors the celebrations. The center does its utmost to serve older members of the community, but is not designed to meet all the needs of older citizens.

And the needs of older gay and lesbian people are particularly acute as they age. While many straight seniors have children and other relatives to care for them, many older members of the queer community do not.

According to Sage, an advocacy group for LGBTQ+ seniors, members of the queer community are twice as likely to age alone and four times as likely to be childless.

Older gays and lesbians were coming of age at a time when becoming parents was difficult, both legally and socially. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 70% of heterosexual adults age 55+ are parents; less than 30% of gay adults over 55 have children. And according to Sage, 54% receive elder care from a partner and 24% from a friend.

Many end up falling through the cracks. In Utah, gay icon Joe Redburn — a longtime talk radio personality who opened two gay bars, co-founded the first Utah Pride Festival and received a lifetime achievement award from the Utah Pride Center — died in a homeless shelter in 2020. He had no family or support system to take care of him.

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) Joe Redburn, a Utah gay icon — seen here receiving the Utah Pride Center’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008 — died at a homeless shelter on September 22, 2020 at the age of 82. His death highlighted the limited resources often available to older LGBTQ+ people.

Elderly care is not a problem unique to the LGBTQ+ community, but it is more acute. While only 6% of straight adults have provided elderly care for friends, according to Sage, 21% of LGBTQ+ adults have done so. And these caregivers are more likely to be isolated and tend to have poorer mental and physical health.

“Seniors are typically people whose needs are not addressed,” said Rosa Bandeirinha, communications director for the Utah Pride Center. “I think in general the society that we live in isn’t one that values ​​seniors or old age like other cultures do.”

Helping people find help

“A lot of people look at the name ‘Utah Pride Center’ and the festival and the parade that we do and they’re like, ‘Oh my God!’ They’re a huge organization that has all this money,” said Brittany Martinez, the center’s adult program manager. “And 20 of us are doing the best we can with what little money we have.”

Due to limited resources, the Utah Pride Center cannot offer everything for everyone. It doesn’t offer homeless, housing, or medical services — but employees work with other nonprofits and government agencies to find those services for its customers.

“I mean, we wish we could do everything for everyone,” Bandeirinha said. “But there are other great organizations that complement each other. We all complement each other’s work.”

The center helps community members get health insurance, get immunizations, and can help them find “any doctor you’re looking for,” Bandeirinha said. “We are directing people to all resources that we have been able to review so we can be confident that they are safe for the community.”

And that’s important for the LGBTQ+ community. According to Sage, about one in five members of the community avoids medical care for fear of discrimination. Approximately two out of three people have been victimized at least three times in employment and health situations. And victims are more likely to experience worse health outcomes.

According to Sage, 9% of gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer people report that a health care provider “has used harsh or offensive language when providing treatment.” Among transgender people, that number rises to 21%.

Senior housing is hard to find

Almost half of LGBTQ+ seniors have reported “prejudicial treatment” when seeking senior housing. About a third said they feared they would have to go into hiding again to find senior housing.

Utah Pride Center staff help seniors find housing and help senior housing workers learn how to serve LGBTQ+ customers.

“We can train other organizations to become queer-friendly and LGBTQ-affirmative,” Bandeirinha said. “This would be very helpful in, for example, long-term care facilities for the elderly, memory care facilities and homeless shelters.”

In many homeless shelters, people are segregated by gender, not gender, “and those aren’t safe environments,” Bandeirinha said, “so maybe it’s safer to live on the streets than to go to one of those places.”

Utah Pride Center Programs

Although the emphasis at the center is on programs for younger people, the older generations are not ignored. There are a few programs specifically designed for seniors, including:

• Silver Pride Senior Drop-In, for those 50 years and older. No registration or login is required – just drop by on Mondays from 2pm to 4pm. “You can come here and hang out, meet, get to know each other, use the computers, read or chat, use our kitchen, cook something, just to have some social time together,” Bandeirinha said.

• Sew Much Pride, an arts program in partnership with the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. (For more information, visit “Every quarter they have an art workshop for our seniors over 55. And they have it all,” Martinez said. “The scholarship provides services and transportation to class when needed. A few extra goodies” and “a year’s membership to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts upon completion of the workshop, which is really great.”

Martinez was quick to point out that seniors are welcome in any program the center sponsors, with the exception of programs for children and youth under 18 years of age.

“All of the adult programs that we do — all of the support groups, all of the social clubs — are for people over the age of 18, so they’re also available to seniors,” Martinez said. “You are most welcome to join any of the adult programs we offer.”

And there’s a long list of adult programs, including support groups for gay men, lesbians, queer people of color, trans and binary people, bisexuals, pansexuals, people in recovery, and people who are neurodivergent. Legal aid is available. The center also offers counseling and suicide prevention services.

And there are purely social groups, like quiz nights, game nights, and packed lunches.

The hope is that the Utah Pride Center’s programs will “fight isolation” and “create a social network for seniors,” Bandeirinha said. “It happens a lot in our population of all ages. Isolation increases and loneliness increases. But of course this happens even more in the older population. And COVID hasn’t helped.”

The goals of the center include not only providing advice and help with medical care and housing, but also building a sense of community. And hopefully the support for seniors is part of it.

In the midst of the pandemic, there is a high demand for support groups and therapies, Martinez said. “But now the need for social interaction has become much stronger,” Martinez said. “And so people want to have gatherings, they want to do fun things. Less support and more social interaction.”

Demand for it has skyrocketed since the Utah Pride Center nearly closed due to pandemic lockdowns. “Now that we’re out of COVID disease, the number of our support groups is at an all-time high,” Martinez said.

The number of participants in the various programs ranges from 15 to 40. The group that consistently attracts the most people is the transgender and non-binary support group, which attracts 25 or more people to meetings.

“We’re running out of space. And because we have so many more support groups — we have two to three a night — we’re running out of space to accommodate everyone,” Martinez said. “And as we get out of that phase where people want online support and want more social or face-to-face interaction, we have to scale to scale [the groups] they come in person.”

More can be done

The Utah Pride Center provides all the services it can for seniors, “but there could definitely be more services for our older population,” Bandeirinha said.

Martinez said under better circumstances — with more resources. The center would be able to provide transportation to medical appointments, home care, meals and transportation to the center for various events for older members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“A lot of this is a little harder without funding,” she said. “There is a liability that you have to pay for drivers. And you want to make sure they are comfortable and we pick them up where they are. And without funding, it becomes a little more difficult.”

A lack of funding — the center’s annual budget is about $4.2 million — is the limiting factor in just about everything the Utah Pride Center does.

“If we look at our senior program,” Bandeirinha said, “I think we see that we need to build capacity and expand capacity.” And of course that means more space and more staff. More training for everyone. And more funding.”

“Always,” Martinez said.

Justin Scaccy

InternetCloning is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button