By Mike Andrew
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) seniors and youth will get together for the first Seattle-area Intergenerational Conference on September 28 at Seattle University.
The conference will highlight issues both generations experience, ways they can interact and be allies to each other, and formulate future plans for advocacy work.
Debbie Carlsen, executive director of LGBTQ Allyship, the organization that initiated the conference, says the idea grew out of work her group had been doing with both youth and seniors in the past few years.
“The conference really grew out of our ‘Queerly Classed’ discussion series,” Carlsen said. “In 2010 and 2011 we had discussions on healthcare, partnering with the Northwest LGBT Senior Provider Network, Old Lesbians Organizing for Change, and other senior leaders. We also had discussions on youth homelessness in 2010, 2011, and 2012, which led us to develop youth focus groups in 2011.
“We’ve also been involved with the Caring Across Generations project since 2012, which helped us connect with seniors, healthcare, providers, immigrant communities…”
Based on these experiences, Carlsen says, Allyship saw some common threads in the experiences of LGBTQ youth and seniors, and potential for the two groups to interact in positive ways.
“We developed additional focus groups for both youth and seniors to see what both groups wanted in an intergenerational project,” Carlsen explained. “And we made sure we were inclusive of all gender identities.”
Seniors reported that they often experience “ageism.” In other words, they felt excluded from the LGBTQ community because events and services were not geared toward seniors.
They also reported feeling that younger people did not value their experience, and they did not get recognition for the movements they led and continue to lead.
Young people, on the other hand, said they experience “adultism.” Although many of the seniors had never heard that term before participating in the Allyship focus group, youth said they felt undervalued and often totally ignored by adults simply because they are young.
“We found shared experience – similarities in how seniors experience ageism and youth experience adultism,” Carlsen told The Retiree Advocate. “From the youth perspective, they wanted to be connected to seniors, and seniors also wanted a connection with the youth.”
From that realization came the idea for an intergenerational conference that could foster dialogue between the two generations.
The agenda for the conference is being developed in the same open, grassroots way that the initial idea came about. Five seniors and five young people will be chosen to engage in weekly getting-to-know-you conversations that ultimately will help frame the discussions at the conference.
“We want people to talk from their own experience,” Carlsen said, “to give each other the space to do that, and to trust that both sides are experts in their own experience.
“We hope to see clear ideas develop about what these communities want next, and how these communities can connect more strongly with each other.”
Seniors age 50 and over who want to participate in this dialogue, beginning in July, or who want to help with the conference in September should apply now to firstname.lastname@example.org.