Two projects for LGBTQIA+ elderly will help to combat diseases and isolation

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Capital News Service

LANSING — Elderly people from the Michigan LGBTQIA+ community who were raised in hostile environments and  experienced health care discrimination are gaining health advocacy and community support.

Southeast Michigan residents can build community connections through a TimeBank project and gain health advocacy for transgender people and gender-nonconforming older adults.

TineBank is a worldwide project where people exchange hours instead of dollars. If you give a ride to somebody that took two hours, then you can use those two hours to learn Irish dance, get help in the kitchen or in the garden. 

TimeBank creates connections inside communities all over the world. Michigan has the only TimeBank in the country for LGBTQIA+ people, said Shawn Force, the program manager for SAGE (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elder) Metro Detroit, a nonprofit group that provides services, advocacy, support for gay seniors and gay caregivers. 

Organizations that support the LGBTQIA+ community in the International TimeBank Collaborative are SAGE Metro Detroit, Michigan Alliance of TimeBanks, Affirmations and Generations United. 

“The initial concept was we need to find a way to get support for elderly people,” Force said. “And the vehicle for doing it is TimeBanking, and TimeBanking is potentially beneficial for everybody.”

The International collaborative aims to build the same connections inside the LGBTQIA+ community, especially between the younger generation and elderly people, Force said. 

Force said that elderly people were raised at a time hostile to LGBTQIA+ people, so it’s easier to trust somebody from the same community.

Initially, the TimeBank for LGBTQIA+ people will work in Detroit, Macomb, Wayne, Washtenaw counties, she said.

Some TimeBanks have fees up to $20 per year or as a one-time payment for events, meals and administrative purposes. Force said the goal of LGBTQIA+ International TimeBank Collaborative is to make it available for as many people as possible.

Options of fees and free access are still being discussed, she said. 

In December, SAGE Metro Detroit and Affirmations will set up live and online meetings to get feedback about TimeBank. Officially, TimeBank starts in March. 

To give feedback or participate in the project, email Force at

Another project for the elderly is the Transgender Aging and Health Project.

Emell Derra Adolphus, the communications coordinator at SAGE Metro Detroit, wrote in email that the project trains volunteer health advocates to accompany transgender and gender nonconforming elderly people to medical appointments to assist with advocacy and resource connections. 

Transgender people have “higher rates of disability, depression, anxiety, loneliness, suicidal thoughts and general poor health,” according to SAGE.

One study found that one-fifth of them were refused care by medical providers, according to Lambda Legal, a national legal rights organization that helps LGBTQ+ and people with HIV. 

Elderly people need more medical care than the young, and that is similar in the LGBTQ+ community. If they are eligible for Medicare, that covers most of transgenders’ needs. However, Medicare is available only for people over 65 years old. 

Some insurance companies refuse to cover any transgender-related, care and in reality they can refuse to provide routine health care, saying that issues are connected to transgender hormones and surgery, according to  SAGE.

Tim Niyonsenga, the program officer for the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, a philanthropic foundation that works to improve the health and wellness of Michigan residents, while reducing health care costs, said the project includes wellness workshops that address the needs of aging  transgender people who encounter isolation, trauma, transition and sexuality problems. 

Thirty volunteers help about 500 transgender people, said Niyonsenga. The main territories that the project includes are in Southeast Michigan, but it could grow in the future and become statewide, he added.

TheTransgender Aging and Health Project and the LGBTQIA+ International TimeBank Collaborative each received $100,000  from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund. These projects will last for one year and could be continued for up to three years.

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