Day 5: What a Week!
SAGE staffers at the American Society on Aging’s 2015 Aging in America Conference will be reporting back to us all week with their views on the conference, panels they are participating in, innovative strides in the field of aging, ideas they are taking back to work and more! Check back daily for their insights.
I had the distinct honor this afternoon of moderating the “Addressing Intimacy and Sexuality in Long-Term Care” panel with the esteemed experts, Jon Kole from Hebrew Home at Riverdale; Dan Kuhn of All Trust Home Care; and, Lynda Markut of the Alzheimer’s Association of SouthEast Wisconsin. All three panelists contributed to sharing vital information about creating a healthy and safe environment that allows for intimacy and sexual expression in long-term care residences.
They spoke to a packed house of over 50 attendees, who had excellent questions related to assessing competency for consent, addressing bias amongst residents an how to be respectful and responsible legal guardian.
Earlier in the day, I was proud to be a part of a thought leader focus group discussion, led by our friends at the National Council on Aging and the Walmart Foundation about enhancing diverse women’s empowerment throughout their lifespans.
Stimulating and exciting conversations all day at the Aging In America 2015 conference!
Another great day at ASA, addressing dental care, boundaries, sexual health and more pet assistance for older adults. One thing I like about ASA is that topics come up with relevance that didn’t necessarily make it to our agenda, but that we are clearly dealing with in the lives of our clients and program participants. Many people are doing innovative projects and services in pockets around the country that can really help us. Likewise, the LGBT community has much to share with everyone else that is relevant across the board, particularly in the areas of sex, sexuality and aging. For instance, the workshop I attended earlier this afternoon, “Sexual Health and Functioning Across Sexual and Gender Identity Groups in Later Life,” was presented by our community partners and allies from Howard Brown in Chicago, ActionAIDS in Philadelphia and ACRIA from NYC in our own backyard. This was just one of a series on sexual health, sexuality and the need for physical intimacy being produced throughout the day by the LGBT Aging Issues Network (LAIN) of ASA. Our own Hilary Meyer is on a panel on entitled “Addressing Expressions of Intimacy and Sexuality in Long-Term Care” that was packed (see photo above)! It’s great to see so many people interested in these issues and looking for solutions.
Early yesterday morning Deborah Terry-Hays and Robin DiAngelo of Senior Services in Seattle lead a session on micro aggressions.
Micro aggressions are brief exchanges where someone who has some kind of privilege (for example, being white in the United States or identifying as heterosexual) says something hurtful toward toward a person who is a member of a marginalized or underprivileged group (for example, if you’re a person of color, or a member of the LGBT community).
Both facilitators did a great job of explaining how these comments come from structural and institutional inequality, noting, “oppression is most often invisible to the privileged group, normalized, and not consciously intentional.” Because these exchanges are part of larger social norms, micro aggressions are usually not conscious on the part of the aggressor, but can still create a hostile and invalidating climate for the target of the aggression.
Being aware of micro aggressions and preventing them requires humility and being open to feedback. When someone takes the time, energy, and risk to point out a harmful comment, we should strive to really hear what they’re saying, rather than becoming defensive. Likewise, those of us who are often the recipient of micro aggressions need to find the resources and space that will help us remain centered and connected to supportive relationships.
Overall, a very important topic that was extremely well presented and received.