New group will discuss issues facing aging LGBTQ2S community

Rainbow Roundtable will be a safe space to ask questions, says facilitator Travis Jones

The facilitator of a program dedicated to LGBTQ2S seniors, says some pioneers of the gay rights movement who have moved into care facilities are being forced back into the closet.

“These are the people who fought for my rights,” says Travis Jones. “They fought for gay marriage and equal employment rights. These are the same people who, after doing all of this good work, are going back into the closet after retirement.”

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Jones says the baby boomer demographic entering retirement is growing exponentially in Canada and that applies to the LGBTQ2S community as well. To that end, Jones will be facilitating a drop-in gathering on Friday evenings at the Roundhouse Community Centre called Rainbow Roundtable, a weekly discussion group that includes speakers and activities. Jones hopes to connect members of the LGBTQ2S community 55 and older from across the Lower Mainland to discuss the issues facing them as they age. Returning to the closet after moving into a care facility is a key point of concern.

“Due to historic employment marginalization our retirement outcomes look greatly different to the mainstream,” says Jones. “Oppressive retirement budgets often require we leave our homes and enter facilities whose care policies, workers and residents may not be actively supportive or even tolerant of who we are. This can often lead to returning to the closet, social isolation, general fear and discomfort, and most commonly, negative health outcomes.” 

Jones says a 2012 study completed by the Fraser Health Authority and Vancouver Coastal Health estimated there were almost 26,000 LGBTQ2S seniors living in the Lower Mainland. That number is expected to grow by four per cent 2020. The Rainbow Roundtable will be a safe space where members of the LGBTQ2S community can gather and, hopefully, find answers to the many questions that life brings with aging.

“We intend to be a place for sharing our stories, wisdom and experiences of the challenges with aging in the LGBTQ2S community,” says Jones, who has a diploma in counselling. “We will be bringing in specialized speakers from a number of local organizations and service providers to discuss issues related to holistic health and wellbeing as we age.”

Jones wants to add Rainbow Roundtable to the list of community services available that connect older adults and elders across the Lower Mainland and offer a social support system in a fun environment that's interesting and inclusive for everyone. He says participants are encouraged to ask questions of the speakers (anonymously) on topics ranging from finance to health, something they might not have had the chance to do previously.

Rainbow Roundtable will run every Friday evening from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. beginning Sept. 14, at the Roundhouse Community Centre, 181 Roundhouse Mews in Yaletown. The first group of sessions will run until Dec. 14. The sessions are $5, but Jones is hoping to find a sponsor or donor to help offset that cost for those who can’t afford it.

“$5 might not seem like a lot of money,” says Jones. “But, our retirement outcomes often look a lot different than the mainstream.”

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