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Aging Assistance Organizations Gather For LGBT Elder Training

(Photo courtesy of Cassandra Peel)

On Thursday, Harmony Hospice in Tucson hosted its first training to address the needs of LGBT elders. Project Visibility is an hour and half class attended by staff from assisted living facilities, nursing homes and other agencies. Cassandra Peel is with Harmony Hospice. In the training, she said, staff learned to ask open ended questions and make no assumptions.

"If somebody identifies as a male but actually is a female, there may need to be a trip to the gynecologist to provide care for the anatomy that they currently have. So we did talk a lot about that and how complicated it can get if people do make assumptions," she says.

Peel says there are more than 2.7 million LGBT elders in the U.S. As baby boomers age, that number could reach three to seven million by 2030. Which means even younger health professionals need to mindful of their word choice, like in this example given by Peel.

"He used the work queer with a member of the LGBT community at a care home and was not well received because the term 'queer' was not as comfortable for seniors and had a negative connotation back in the day," she said. "And for millennials, queer is a very socially acceptable word and can even be a word for an ally."

Peel said older LGBT people are sometimes hesitant to be open about their sexuality, in part because of the era they grew up in.

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KJZZ senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.