VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As we kick off Pride Week in Vancouver, there’s a new focus on inclusivity.
A group representing private long-term care homes is launching Aging with Pride, a program to help support LGBTQ seniors in continuing care.
“We know that it’s estimated at between about three and 10 per cent of the population as being gay, bisexual, queer, two-spirited, or transgender,” Mike Klassen with the BC Care Providers Association explains.
“So we feel it’s time to provide more education and awareness, so we can help people feel that they are supported and safe to be themselves, whether it’s in seniors’ housing or in a care setting.”
In many cases, Klassen says LGBTQ seniors in care often feel they have to mask their sexuality in order to fit in. He hopes the new program will help address the needs of this demographic.
“Aging with Pride initiative will help to begin a database of queer-competent homes, and allow consumers who are LGBTQ+ to be able to find places that are going to be safe and welcoming for them,” Klassen explains, adding many of these seniors struggle because they’re estranged from their families.
“Being able to find that supportive provider of services, somebody who’s willing to welcome them in … they can really become that safe, supportive family that they currently lack.”
Through Aging with Pride, operators will have access to programs and resources to help seniors living in care.
“With many older people accessing care or housing when they don’t have the support of families, (that) makes them some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” Klassen says.
“I suppose the good news today is that society is changing and inclusion is happening more often than not. People are coming out sooner and staying out longer.”
He believes the conversations taking place around inclusivity and pride are important, and a step in the right direction.
Klassen notes Pride Week is about celebrating and reflecting upon the progress that has been made over the years.
“It’s also a time to ask, perhaps, where we could do better,” he tells NEWS 1130. “I think the elder trans and elder LGBTQ+ population maybe don’t feel as included as others do in this celebration. Ideally, I’d love to see a float going down through the Pride Parade that was really focused with a lot of elderly people who are very much as part of the community as anybody else.
“For me, Aging with Pride is as much a celebration of that community as well.”
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correct the spokesperson’s name and title.