Older LGBTQ people in rural Arizona often struggle to find services and supports

Published: Monday, January 30, 2023 - 8:56am
Updated: Monday, January 30, 2023 - 10:28am

For LGBTQ elders who live in rural parts of Arizona, accessing services can be tough. Programs geared toward this population may not even exist. Now one organization that is working towards becoming a safe place for LGBTQ older adults. 

Mary Beals Luedtka is the aging director of the Northern Arizona Council of Governments, known as NACOG. She says their goal is to be the place where older LGBTQ people can comfortably ask for services and support.

"I think there's a lot of work yet to be done. It can't be a box that you check."

According to AARP, as few as 10% of rural and small town LGBTQ-residents say they have access to LGBTQ-specific services. 

"I think one of the biggest takeaways I had was that if we don't name LGBTQ+ in our materials and reflect them in the pictures we use in our brochures, and have an inclusivity statement … they're not going to feel comfortable coming to us," Beals-Luedtka said.

Beals-Luedtka also plans to train her organization’s partners who provide home and community based services. 

"Oftentimes, they actually go back in the closet, when they get older, because they're afraid of discrimination in nursing homes, in assisted living homes and senior centers. And I don't think the aging network is really on top of really working in this population, o this is a focus of ours, nationwide right now," Beals-Luedtka said.

Next up, said Beals-Luedtka: an inclusivity statement so those visiting NACOG's website will know they support LGBTQ elders.

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