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.
In 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.