Based on U.S. Census estimates and recent surveys by the Williams Institute and Gallup, there are approximately 27,000 LGBT people over 65 living in the Delaware Valley. As the Boomer generation matures, that number is expected to jump to over 55,000 by 2030. LGBT older adults face a wide variety of health challenges as they age. These challenges include maintaining a healthy amount of physical activity and getting enough nutrition from their diets. Many LGBT older adults live in environments where access to healthy food options may be scarce.

In order to address these and other health issues facing LGBT older adults, the LGBT Elder Initiative presented a free community forum on Saturday, October 25, 2014 called “Healthy Aging,” part of the LGBTEI Conversations series. The program was presented at Center in the Park, a senior center in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, PA.

“Healthy Aging” focused on the five pillars of healthy aging – physical activity, nutrition, social and community engagement, living environment, and spirituality and emotional wellness. Expert panelists discussed each pillar and offered helpful tips to maximize health and wellness.


Physical Activity
Dr. Debra D. Williams, Ed.D, warmed up and energized the audience by leading everyone in gentle activity that included stretching and dancing. Integrating movement into daily life was a key aspect of Dr. Williams’ message that staying active has many long-term benefits, from improving overall well-being to preventing illness.

Social Engagement and Avoiding Social Isolation
Cynthia Wishkovsky, MSSA, highlighted the benefits to be gained from social activity. She emphasized that depression is common among older adults, but that becoming depressed is not a natural consequence of aging.

Physical Environment and Falls Prevention
Carolyn Cotlov, PT, shared expert tips for ensuring safety in the home.

Alesha Higgins, MSW, emphasized the key role nutrition plays in maintaining health for older adults.

Spirituality and Well-being
Dr. Lucille W. Ijoy, Ed.D, addressed the importance of spirituality and maintaining connection to sources of meaning throughout life and forging new ones as circumstances change.


LGBT older adults face a number of barriers to staying socially and spiritually connected due to homophobia, biphiobia and transphobia. In a 2012 survey of the “Health and Service Needs of LGBT Older Adults,” the Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) found that 39% of survey participants experienced at least one of a series of lifetime discriminatory experiences by a health care provider.

Access to culturally competent health education is critical to helping to empower LGBT older adults to age successfully. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), “nearly 90% of Medicare beneficiaries today have at least one chronic health condition, and 63% have two or more, and the need for consumers to manage these conditions through lifestyle modification and behavior change is increasingly viewed as central to achieving improved health and cost outcomes.”

Learning to better navigate their communities to meet their health needs is critical for LGBT older adults striving to live healthier lives in their current environments. Being able to effectively self-manage one’s health helps individuals successfully live independently and age in place. Moreover, making healthy decisions improves an individual’s overall quality of life and leads to greater physical and emotional wellness.


“Healthy Aging,” a part of the LGBTEI’s Conversations series of educational programs, was a collaborative effort of the Elder Initiative and Center in the Perk.

The program was made possible by the support of the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund (DVLF), Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) and Philadelphia Gay News (PGN)


Additional resources that were distributed at “Healthy Aging” are available at RESOURCES

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