Our health and social service systems continue to be imperfect. Within healthcare and in the community older adults with intersectional identities face ageism plus other forms of discrimination. Members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community face homophobia and transphobia. We can all play a role in transforming systems and society in order to improve outcomes for everyone.
Older adults who identify as part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in Canada experience fears and concerns as they navigate the health and eldercare systems. In general, people who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+ are at higher risk for some mental health issues.
It’s important to remember that homosexuality was only decriminalized in 1969—during the lifetime of today’s older adults. This reality will impact life experiences due to stigma and discrimination across their lifespan. It may impact whether someone feels they can or want to be open about their gender identity and sexual orientation.
Social inclusion and non-discrimination are social determinants of health – non-medical factors that influence health outcomes. And so, if we care about healthy aging for all, it’s important to take an active role in changing the system to better serve everyone in our communities, at all ages.
How we view the world is shaped by our own experiences and understanding. Pay attention to whether you are making heteronormative assumptions (e.g. that a man is married to a woman, or that someone identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth).
Actively educate yourself on the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and participate in allyship. Get started by watching the RTOERO Foundations webinar Supporting 2SLGBTQIA+ older adults in aging and old age.
Safer spaces are about more than rainbow stickers.If you are part of a group or organization, get humble and really examine inclusion. Is your program or group inclusive? How do you know? Have you ever heard things said that might create exclusion for members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community? (e.g. comments about pronoun use?). If something doesn’t sit well with you, will you speak up? Has your group ever done any co-learning on 2SLGBTQIA+ issues and experiences?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your primary health care providers, or any eldercare services you’re connected to. You can ask whether any training has taking place on providing affirming care to members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Asking the question might get care providers thinking about their own approach and training—it’s a simple thing you can do. Look for evidence of affirming care when you visit facilities
You can connect formally as part of a volunteer role or partnership, support organizations financially, or attend events and training. Connections with organizations can help you broaden your network and your understanding.
The tips above were adapted from the findings of a research and training project funded by the RTOERO Foundation in 2016-17 to examine educational gaps among care workers in Canada. The project, called Speaking up and Speaking Out, was conducted by Northern Ontario School of Medicine, University of Guelph, University of Ottawa and Lakehead University.
The project resulted in a toolkit that was used for training healthcare workers.
Our diversity, equity and inclusion work is embedded in our strategic plan and tied to our advocacy work. Sharing learning and information with our members and others is part of our effort to help promote equity and inclusion across Canada. Explore more posts about equity and inclusion.