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LGBTQ Seniors And Advocates At Davie Symposium Propose Solutions To Discrimination

Working groups brainstormed ways to implement protections for LGBTQ seniors in Florida during a symposium on aging Friday.
Caitie Switalski
Working groups brainstormed ways to implement protections for LGBTQ seniors in Florida during a symposium on aging Friday.

Getting older is not easy. Yet aging in South Florida brings its own challenges, including affordable housing, new technology, transportation, and specific issues that LGBTQ seniors face — like discrimination in nursing homes.

More than 200 seniors and caregivers gathered at Nova Southeastern University in Davie Friday for a symposium on all things aging.


"We need discrimination protections in housing," Elizabeth Schwartz said. A Hollywood native, now she practices law and LGBTQ advocacy in Miami.  She also co-chairs the national board for SAGE - an organization that provides advocacy and services to elderly LGBTQ people. 

"These nursing home who are discriminating against folks can't do that," Schwartz said.  

LGBTQ seniors are more likely than other groups to face housing or job discrimination. Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties have anti-discrimination laws on the books, but the state and federal government do not. 

Read More: As Broward Population Ages, County Has Major Housing And Transportation ShortagesIn a working group during the symposium, Schwartz supported the idea to mandate LGBTQ cultural competency training for people who work in long term care facilities. She hopes Florida will follow in the footprints of other states that already have these requirements, like California and Massachusetts.   

"There is an absolute need for us to educate everyone in the aging space," Schwartz said.  

The symposium was organized by  The South Florida Institute on Aging, also called The SoFIA. In addition to LGBTQ senior issues, there were also sessions that focused on medical marijuana, how to better get around if you can no longer drive, and how to battle the effects of ageism when trying to get a job as an older adult. 

The President and CEO of The SoFIA, Peter Kaldes, said the think tank wanted to talk about issues outside the realm of just healthcare. 

"More and more social-economic issues are coming up as more pressing," Kaldes said. "In many instances [they] are social determinants of health."

For Schwartz, she said the sessions have made her think about her own circumstance getting older as an LGBTQ person here. 

"My wife and I are certainly looking at what our future is going to look like aging in South Florida," she said.

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Caitie Switalski is a rising senior at the University of Florida. She's worked for WFSU-FM in Tallahassee as an intern and reporter. When she's in Gainesville for school, Caitie is an anchor and producer for local Morning Edition content at WUFT-FM, as well as a digital editor for the station's website. Her favorite stories are politically driven, about how politicians, laws and policies effect local communities. Once she graduates with a dual degree in Journalism and English,Caitiehopes to make a career continuing to report and produce for NPR stations in the sunshine state. When she's not following what's happening with changing laws, you can catchCaitielounging in local coffee shops, at the beach, or watching Love Actually for the hundredth time.
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