Silence is not golden

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Aging Well

A week ago I had the chance to see the film GenSilent. I saw this film a few months back and I got even more out of it when I saw it the second time. This hour long video is a documentary that follows the lives of a few people over the period of about a year.  The stories are filled with determination, love, compassion and caring. People share their history, their lives, their loves and how they coped in the face of challenges that made their past battles seem like child’s play. 

These people were ageing, some not as well as others. In one case the couple had to be separated after one cared for the other as long as possible in their home that they had shared for over 40 years. One moved into care and was visited regularly and he was provided with excellent care and love until the end. The movie shared interviews with how this couple remained a couple, although they were separated. The difficulties were shared and the raw emotions were exposed.

 Another couple received home care twice as one became ill after taking care of the other.  Again the challenges and blessings were shared with love and compassion. This story showed just how important a caregiver who is truly open and respectful can make a true difference in the life of a person needing care.

 A third couple shared the strategies they had taken upon themselves to prepare their home to be able to accommodate them as they aged. They were determined to never need to move away from their beloved home, pets, neighbours and friends. Their community was essential to their ageing well.  These women had wonderful humour and determination that I hope sees them living to the end as they please. 

Along with dealing with old age and illnesses, each of these couples have something else in common, they are gay.  These seniors had lived through the times when their very existence was against the law.  Even though they were law-abiding, hard-working, contributing members of society, their love was not recognized as good.

The last individual whose story was shared was a person who was very challenged with a critical condition and a lack of supports available to her. She was fiercely independent and remained at home with home oxygen for as long as she could without help and then she had volunteers rally around her so she could go back home as her condition got better and then worsened again. This woman was transgendered (a person who is biologically seen as one sex, but feels the true self is the opposite sex) and she had lived an unhappy life until she was true to herself.  Still a parent, a friend and a veteran, she was isolated from those who meant the most to her because of who she was.

This film is so accurately titled as these people lived at a time when they were silent. They were silent on who they were and who they loved purely out of fear and no other reason. Fear they would be harmed, fear they would be rejected and fear they would be arrested. As we care for our gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex (GLBTI) seniors now, we need to be sure that they know that they are respected and cared for. This film is one of the many tools out there to help care providers to better understand more about the community and the diversity within the community. The importance to openly advocate for full and equal inclusion of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex seniors is clear to many and through education, I hope it becomes clearer to everyone.  Should you have any questions please do not hesitate to consult PFLAG Canada or Pride Health on the internet or call our Seniors Health Center at 597-7150 or toll free at 1-877-916-7150 or the Cumberland Seniors Safety Coordinator at 667-7484.


Patricia Harrington is the district manager, senior's health, for the Cumberland Health Authority.

Organizations: Seniors Health Center, Cumberland Seniors Safety Coordinator, Cumberland Health Authority

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