Generations Celebration combats social isolation!

December 2, 2020 | Press Release
Generations Celebration combats social isolation!

This year's Generations Celebration event, presented by the Goldsen Institute's AgePride HealthyGen Center and the National LGBTQ+ Health and Longevity Center, and held on Wednesday, November 18, from 4-5pm, was held virtually, solidifying common ground in the context of a global pandemic. The free event celebrated advances in health and longevity while illuminating the steadfast work needed to advance racial equity and intersectional justice.

More than 250 LGBTQ+ people of all ages and their allies tuned in for entertainment and engaging presentations and helped raise funds for gen2gen, a new mentorship program designed to reduce social isolation by connecting diverse generations through meaningful connections. Dazzling performer Aleksa Manila MC'd the event. The lineup of electrifying talent included the "hardest workin' woman in blues, soul, funk & gospel," Lady A, local drag chanteuse Arnaldo! and long-time acclaimed activist Dr. Grethe Cammermeyer.

Karina Walters Ph.D., an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, kicked off the event with a land acknowledgment. "We are on the traditional land of the first people of Seattle, the Duwamish People past and present and honor with gratitude the land itself and the Duwamish Tribe as well as all other First Nation people."

Multiple speakers of different generations shared their expertise and experience, unifying in solidarity, beginning with Professor Karen Fredriksen Goldsen, Director of Goldsen Institute's AgePride HealthyGen Center and the LGBTQ+ Health and Longevity Center at the University of Washington.

"Who are LGBTQ people in the state of Washington, and what are our experiences?" Dr. Fredriksen Goldsen asked the audience. "It is equally important to ask ourselves: Why are we mostly invisible in our state reports? Why don't we have a snapshot of our community? Invisibility creates vulnerability." Dr. Fredriksen Goldsen's research team at the UW School of Social Work and 45 different community partners, the UW's School of Nursing, School of Medicine, and the Dan Evans School of Public Policy sought to answer these questions. Now, for the first time, we have an accurate snapshot in the Washington State LGBTQ+'s Equity and Health Report.

https://genevents.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/WA-State-LGBTQ-Equity-and-Health-Report-FINAL.pdf

Close to two thousand LGBTQ+ Washingtonians participated in the project, and the multiplicity and intersectionality reflect the fabric and vibrancy of our communities. "But waves of trauma have cast, and continue to cast, a long shadow on this community," Dr. Fredriksen Goldsen said. "When I gave a talk last year in Houston, I was stunned to learn that 28 trans women of color were murdered there last year. This is an epidemic of violence." Dr. Fredriksen-Goldsen went on to describe another epidemic many are facing today, that of social isolation. "Many of the elders in our study are experiencing social isolation. Many had strong networks, but with advancing age, many cannot connect or do not receive support from their peers, and their worlds are constricting. These elders are less likely to have children, less likely married or partnered, and more likely to live alone than heterosexuals. One of the most surprising findings in our study is that young adults have comparable levels of social isolation - which is why we are committed to building bridges and linking lives, so those in our communities are not alone."

To access the full report, visit

https://genevents.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/WA-State-LGBTQ-Equity-and-Health-Report-FINAL.pdf

and to hear Dr. Fredriksen Goldsen's full talk, visit

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48dRKxMf3hI&feature=youtu.be

Dr. Fredriksen Goldsen shared the impact of her and her research team's work at the Goldsen Institute, including the world's first Memory Loss program for LGBTQ+ older adults, Aging with Pride: IDEA, funded by the National Institutes of Health and National Institute on Aging. Research at the Goldsen Institute illuminates that elders in our community need affordable housing; a place they can call home. Thanks in part to the Institute's research, the City of Seattle and Washington state have earmarked $41 million dollars to build Washington's first LGBTQ+ affirming affordable housing. Goldsen Institute's AgePride HealthyGen Center has also received funds from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and the state of Washington to develop the first evidence-based training for Nursing Homes to ensure LGBTQ+ seniors can be visible and included.

The event proceeded with engaging presentations covering a wide range of pressing topics. The topics addressed access and disparities in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color) communities; promoting equity in the face of historical trauma; HIV, resilience, and long-term survivors; exploring intersections of race, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender in health inequities; and bias and resistance in the lives of trans people.

Brent Butler, currently responsible for the City of Seattle's Age-Friendly Program, which implements health and wellness initiatives for older adults and persons with disabilities, described a "new, unfamiliar sense of dread" that culminated during the Black Lives Matter movement this year. When asked what providers and community members can do to reduce disparities in access to services for BIPOC and BIPOC LGBTQ+ older adults, Butler encouraged organizations to invite qualified People of Color to join their boards and focus on persons with lived experience. "If you are not successful in finding someone for your board, you should take on a mentorship role," Butler said. "I am where I am because of the people who invested in me. Encouraging the growth of persons who are not represented in the community you serve is an investment in the future."

Steven Sawyer and Phyllis Little, POCAAN's two long-standing leaders, were recognized as trail blazers this year, honored for their leadership, resilience, and commitment to serving communities in Seattle's margins and the greater King County area. "Their steadfast work addressing HIV and health in African American Black communities has been unparalleled," said Dr. Fredriksen Goldsen. Upon accepting the recognition, Steven Sawyer eloquently quoted Bayard Rustin in saying, "If I do not fight bigotry wherever it is, bigotry is thereby strengthened. And to the degree that it is strengthened, it will, thereby, have the power to turn on me." Sawyer went on to say that "For more than 32 years, POCAAN has been a voice and a beacon of hope for the most marginalized, empowering the community to fight against the inequities that too often have plagued communities of color. Today, as we continue the work at the crossroads for real change, we must remember: we can root out bigotry of all kinds, ageism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism if we do not forget. We are stronger together, and together we make the difference."

Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer joined the stage to give an intimate performance of two original songs. Her heartfelt voice paired perfectly with a graceful acoustic guitar. Grethe joined the Army at 19, and in 1988, as part of military security clearance, she disclosed that she was a lesbian, resulting in the termination of her 25-year military career. She challenged her discharge in federal court, won, and was reinstated. Her song "Did You Imagine This" played during a slideshow honoring those we have lost this year, including those we've lost to COVID-19. It was a touching and sobering moment for the audience. [EDITOR'S NOTE:

https://www.cammermeyer.com/grethe-sings

Life-threatening illness and loss can trigger trauma and painful experiences from the early days of HIV. Support from the community is more difficult in this current pandemic climate due to social distancing. Yet, resilience strategies experienced by those living with HIV can be employed again to maintain well-being. Aging with Pride has found that community involvement is critical and significant in resilience among those living with HIV. When we think of HIV and resilience, most important are the voices of survivors; Leo Egashira, a board member of GenPRIDE, exemplifies this inspirational resilience.

Egashira described his diagnosis almost twenty years ago, during the early stages of the HIV epidemic, as he saw first-hand the gay male community's devastation. "Just as I witnessed the needless waste of life and political cowardice of the Reagan administration in the 1980s, I now see the same thing with coronavirus in the malfeasance of the Trump administration," Egashira said. "I am angry that I won't be able to do some things I had hoped to do in my ever-shortening lifespan. I am angry that fellow Americans have had to put their lives on hiatus or have their lives completely disrupted. I am angry that young people may not even get to start their education and careers. But I am glad that enough people share my anger to actualize regime change and a new start. We will survive and eventually thrive."

Greg Scully, the operations specialist at the Goldsen Institute, introduced gen2gen, a new mentorship program bringing people together to establish strong multi-generational connections that benefit younger and older people alike. "Our cutting-edge research into vulnerable populations helped us to develop this program," said Scully. "It's an innovative solution to improve health, well-being, and longevity. We're working to create a world where older people grow with younger people in ways that help everyone to thrive." Alisa Tirado Strayer, manager of HealthyGen Center, encourageed participants to support the program. "Older adults and the younger generations have so much to offer the world around them, but now is a time when generations have even less access to each other than usual," Tirado Strayer says. "I give because these programs can infuse our community with the voices, humor, and wisdom of our elders that we need to guide us now." The program is still accepting donations and encourages the community to become involved at genevents.org/gen2gen.

More than 250 people tuned in for the event on Wednesday, raising an impressive amount of money for gen2gen. Professor Karen Fredriksen Goldsen and her team look forward to a new year of many innovations and hope to see everyone again at the next Generations Celebration.

Generations Celebration thanks everyone who tuned in, participated, and donated to the HealthyGen Center.

We are grateful to our generous sponsors: Aegis Living, Long Term Care Advisors, GenPride, and The University of Washington School of Social Work, Seattle Counseling Services, The Stranger, UW School of Social Work Tacoma, HOT 97.3, Mix 95.7, GSBA, Pierce County Aging & Disability Resources, Careforce, the UW de Tornyay Center School of Nursing, The Tacoma Older LGBT Center, Bayview Retirement Community, New Chapter Weddings and Events, and the Seattle Gay News.

For more information about Generations Celebration, including accessing the event's full recording, please visit genevents.org/2020-conference-gala.

About Goldsen Institute
The Goldsen Institute is an innovation hub that researches vulnerable populations and creates interventions to improve their health, wellness, and longevity. The Goldsen Institute is dedicated to building a world where all ages thrive throughout their lives. Improvements in health, wellness, and longevity demand that we disrupt traditional intervention models, which necessitates new practices for how we live, work, and grow in our communities. To inspire significant scale changes, the Institute collaborates with UW faculty, research staff, students, and community members to work together to discover and share innovative tools and programs. As thought leaders we help shape the ideas that influence cultural and policy change for a better society. By fostering continuous dialogue, the Institute develops workable solutions for urgent issues confronting vulnerable populations to strengthen our global environment.

About AgePride HealthyGen Center
The University of Washington's HealthyGen Center is distinct by its focus on innovation and being responsive to the needs of elders, families, and care partners in diverse at-risk and underserved communities. Responding to the changing nature of aging in our society, the Center develops interdisciplinary, professional, and community collaborations to create new models and services to advance health promotion, wellness, and prevention for elders and multi-generational care. The Center is delivering some of the first evidence-based interventions designed to address the growing and distinct needs of at-risk and underserved communities, including health and support programs across generational programming and evidence-based training for providers to ensure culturally appropriate care. Through its community-based collaborative work, the Center promotes multi-generational health and longevity in an increasingly diverse society. More information at age-pride.org/healthy-gen-center

About the gen2gen mentorship program
For decades there have been too few opportunities to build connections between older and younger generations. Today, COVID-19 and physical distancing cause further division, disconnection, ageism, and loneliness. The pandemic has separated everyone while creating an appreciation for our essential interdependence. The gen2gen mentorship program will bring generations together to fight social isolation and strengthen multi-generational connections. Through gen2gen, diverse generations will share their life stories, and lessons learned to make meaningful connections and better understand each other's diverse experiences, histories, and perspectives. The AgePride HealthyGen Center at the University of Washington's School of Social Work developed gen2gen. The Center bases its successful programs on strong community partnerships. Together we utilize cutting-edge information regarding vulnerable populations, such as LGBTQ older adults, to develop innovative solutions improving health, well-being, and longevity. YouthCare is a collaborating partner on gen2gen. More information at genevents.org/gen2gen.

Courtesy of the Goldsen Institute's AgePride HealthyGen Center and the National LGBTQ+ Health and Longevity Center