Collaboration includes efforts to provide information, access to services for LGBTQ senior citizens
Erie County's Department of Senior Services and The Pride Center of Western New York recently announced a new partnership that provides information and access to services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer senior citizens.
The Silver Pride Project, which helps to provide activities and programs for LGBTQ seniors, includes regular office hours for a Senior Services employee who has been assigned to work with the local LGBTQ community at The Pride Center of Western New York, 200 South Elmwood Ave. Adina Garfinkel, a Senior Services staff member, will be present from 4-8 p.m. every Tuesday and from 9-11 a.m. every Friday. In addition, other office hours can be held by individual appointment.
"Thanks to the efforts of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, there are many kinds of government and nonprofit programs here that can help seniors stay independent and meet the daily needs of living," said Randy Hoak, Erie County commissioner of Senior Services. "We believe seniors should encounter 'no wrong door' when approaching any agency or representative, and now one of those doors will be the entrance to the Pride Center of Western New York. "
In addition to her normal office hours on Tuesdays and Fridays, Garfinkel will be made available to speak to local senior groups and LGBTQ organizations about the needs of members of the LGBTQ community and the isolation that can be experienced by the current generation of LGBTQ seniors.
"Many of the older people in our community are estranged from their families due to past attitudes and have lost many of their closest friends during the height of the AIDS crisis," said Matthew Crehan Higgins, senior director of The Pride Center of Western New York. "Very often they are not comfortable in being themselves around others because of the past prejudice they have experienced."
Having an Erie County employee present on a regular basis at The Pride Center of Western New York will also provide opportunities to seek counseling on entitlements and benefits, information for caregivers, access to home care, day care and home delivered meals, as well as introductions to other local agencies providing short- and long-term assistance and support.
"Our first goal is to help people get out and meet with others and make new friends to keep away isolation and depression," said Rod Hensel, community liaison for the Silver Pride Project and a member of Erie County's Senior Services advisory board. "Another major goal is to help seniors keep their independence and stay in their home. Too many have to go to a nursing home way too early because there is no one to help them. That can create financial burdens that often fall on taxpayers, so we can create a win-win situation for everyone with these programs."