The Wolf administration, in partnership with LGBTQ aging advocates and stakeholders, hosted Pennsylvania’s inaugural LGBTQ Aging Summit Oct. 9-10 at the Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey Hotel, Harrisburg.
Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne kicked off the summit and introduced day one’s keynote speaker, the Hon. Kathy Greenlee, vice president of aging and health policy, Center for Practical Bioethics, and former assistant secretary of aging, U.S. Department of Human Health & Services.
Greenlee traveled from Kansas to attend the inaugural summit and shared experiences and obstacles regarding her sexuality from high school to present day; presented on the urgency for provider networks to be LGBTQ-friendly; and discussed the barriers that many LGBTQ elders face.
“With over 300 participants from across the state convening in Harrisburg for the sole purpose of connecting communities and inspiring change, we are confident that our efforts to better serve, support, enable, and empower LGBTQ seniors will continue to move forward due the foundation that was laid,” Osborne said.
Day one of the summit also featured a community panel discussion with LGBTQ older adults, moderated by Carol Harris of Dering Consulting Group, which allowed the panelists to share their lived experiences and highlight the various difficulties many experience as older LGBTQ individuals.
Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine opened day two and introduced the keynote speaker, Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE, who spoke to the audience regarding LGBTQ cultural competency and inclusion.
After Adams’ remarks, the summit hosted a provider panel comprising Dr. Imani Woody, founding director and CEO, Mary’s House for Older Adults; Rabbi Erica Steelman, director of LGBT+ initiatives and staff chaplain, Abramson Center for Jewish Life; Doreen Hespell, director, Montgomery County Area Agency on Aging; Linda Marucci, social worker, Southwest Senior Center; and Arthur Breese, director of diversity and inclusion, Geisinger.
The panel discussed best practices for serving LGBTQ older adults and the importance of being culturally competent within provider networks.
At the conclusion of the provider panel, the summit organized a regional planning session with a focus on tangible community action for the varying regions of summit attendees, specifically regarding how Pennsylvania can build better connections between the older LGBTQ community and providers.
After lunch, which featured speaker Dr. Nii-Quartelai Quartey, national LGBT liaison for AARP, the regional planning groups reported their recommendations and findings from the earlier planning session.
The summit concluded with a state panel, featuring Osborne, Levine, and Todd Snovel, executive director, Pennsylvania’s Commission on LGBTQ Affairs.
Panelists shared insight on the Wolf administration’s efforts to improve LGBTQ inclusiveness, provided feedback on the suggestions from the regional planning session, and took questions from attendees.
“The inaugural statewide LGBTQ Aging Summit allowed us the opportunity to continue to provide resources and answer questions for the older LGBTQ population,” Levine said.
“This first summit is essential to providing information to people in these communities and allowing them to share their stories. We are committed to ensuring that the health community understands and provides for the health needs of this population.”