For people in the LGBTQ community in Boston, there are lots of Meetup opportunities, support groups and community events to get involved with. But as you get a bit further outside the city limits, finding a safe and comfortable LGBTQ community becomes a bit more difficult. This is especially true for LGBTQ seniors who already feel isolated and disconnected from their peers due to health concerns and a lack of family involvement.
One area in the Greater Boston region lacking LGBTQ resources is MetroWest, a cluster of towns just west of Boston and east of Worcester. Community groups and social events here are few and far between, leaving LGBTQ youth and adults no choice but to travel to Worcester, Cambridge, or even farther to find like-minded people. This distance can be inconvenient for anyone, but especially for seniors who can no longer drive, who are on a fixed budget, or who have limited mobility.
Fortunately, there’s at least one funder paying attention to this problem. The MetroWest Health Foundation is based in Framingham and serves the 25 communities in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts. This funder focuses on access to care, adolescent mental health, and healthy aging, but it’s recently stepped up to address the health needs of the local LGBTQ community as well.
The MetroWest Health Foundation awarded a grant to BayPath to launch a new off-shoot of the nonprofit’s Elder Community Care Program. This initiative will improve access to LGBTQ-friendly resources and create social groups to establish an LGBTQ community close to home. Senior-focused issues like affordable housing, medical care and estate planning are addressed in this new plan, as well. Meanwhile, local senior centers are encouraged to share information about LGBTQ events in their newsletters and on social media to get the word out. In part, the foundation’s grant will also fund hiring a part-time staff member at BayPath to focus on the LGBTQ program.
But the larger goals, here, are to prevent depression and suicide among elderly individuals in the community. So in essence, this is a mental health grant just as much as an elder grant or an LGBTQ grant. Regardless, it all ties into this funder’s mission and addresses a local need that has been unmet for a long time. According to RE/MAX Executive Realty, MetroWest has experienced a 12.1 percent growth rate over the past decade, which is at least twice the growth that Massachusetts has seen overall. This means that the needs of this region will only increase by the year.
In the past, LGBTQ issues have been considered controversial, an area that certain funders steer clear of. But this is a great example of health funders putting politics aside to improve the lives of vulnerable members of their communities. There often aren’t enough LGBTQ-specific funders to support this population, especially in suburban and rural areas. Perhaps health funders are the next logical choice to pick up the slack and reconsider the needs of their service areas through a lens of equality and inclusion.