Meeting shines light on LGBT elder abuse

Elder abuse issues can be compounded if the senior is LGBT.

Dr. Gloria Gutman

Elder abuse is a hidden problem, but elder abuse within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LBGT) communities is especially under the radar, according to a Simon Fraser University gerontologist who spoke on Tuesday in Nelson.

Dr. Gloria Gutman said that fear of outing and homophobia may keep LGBT seniors from disclosing abuse, and there are many other reasons why the problem remains unrecognized.

“LBGT couples have a tendency to conceal problems in their relationships, since they have faced societal and family criticism,” she said. “When it comes to lesbians, there is often an assumption that women are highly unlikely to physically strike their partners. A US study of LGBT adults found that 65 per cent of seniors 60 and older had experienced verbal abuse, threat of violence, physical assault, threat of orientation disclosure, or discrimination and that 29 per cent had been physically attacked.”

Elder abuse is defined as harm or distress caused to seniors by a person in a position of trust. The most prevalent forms are physical, emotional, or financial abuse.

“Elder abuse most commonly happens in private households,” said Gutman, “where 92 per cent of Canadian seniors live. Only about eight percent are in institutions. In private homes they may be abused by spouse, lover, child, sibling, friend, neighbour, or caregiver. In institutional settings they may be abused by staff or visitors or sometimes by other residents.”

Gutman said material put out by people who do elder abuse prevention and response never mentions LGBT issues, and “when you go to various LGBT websites there is no mention of elder abuse.”

So she has started the LGBT End-of-Life Conversations Project and website. One of its activities is a series of meetings across the province including Tuesday’s event in Nelson.

“One of the aims of this project was to bring together the people who provide services to LGBT people with people who provide provide services to elder abuse and to get them talking together.”

Gutman said LGBT seniors are especially vulnerable to a number of risk factors for elder abuse: they are up to three times more likely to live alone, they report high levels of loneliness and isolation especially in rural areas, they are less likely to have children, when they do have children the children are less likely to be supportive, they are more likely to have experienced trauma, and they are more likely to have abused drugs or alcohol.

In the Nelson audience was attended by many caregivers and social service providers including Cheryl Dowden of ANKORS.

“In Nelson we like to think we are open minded and progressive,” she told the Star, “but this challenges our assumptions. The world has changed on a policy level, but on an emotional level this is a seniors population that when they came out (if they did come out) would have experienced a great deal of homophobia and are still dealing with the repercussions of that.

“The important thing about this event is that it raises awareness, it shines a light. We need to be alert to it, provide informed support, and continue to have this dialogue about how to support this population.”

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Nelson mural festival: ‘a huge act of community’

This year the mural festival became a music festival as well

UPDATED: MV Balfour ferry returns to service

The 65-year-old ferry had been out of action for a month

Nelson author tours unique food book continent-wide

Jon Steinman is the author of Grocery Story: the Promise of Food Co-ops in the Age of Grocery Giants

Rossland council urges minister to kill Jumbo Glacier Resort project

Mayor writes letter panning ski resort on environmental, legal, and economic grounds

Contempt charge against Balfour logging protesters dropped on technicality

A B.C. Supreme Court justice ruled Cooper Creek Cedar failed to file a contempt application

B.C. cricket players get interrupted by racist remark

Community has had protocols in place for years to respond to prejudice

Groovy B.C. wedding a throwback to Woodstock ‘69

Couple hosts themed wedding 50 years after legendary festival

Nearly 50% of Canadians experience the ‘post-vacation blues’: poll

48 per cent of travellers are already stressed about ‘normal life’ while still on their trip

Couple could go to jail for taking 88 lbs. of Italian sand

Pair said they didn’t know it was illegal to take the sand, which is protected as a public good

More women may need breast cancer gene test, U.S. guidelines say

Recommendations aimed at women who’ve been treated for BRCA-related cancers and are now cancer-free

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft: RCMP

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

Most Read