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Midnight Train to ... Philadelphia

By: Karen J. Allen
Co-Publisher, On the Gay Horizon

We talked a bit about crossroads last week. I'm not sure what's right over the next rise for me, but I do know exactly where you will find me when we get nearer the end of this particular journey.

There's a rocking chair sitting on a porch somewhere in my future. I fast forward to it sometimes to try to get a different sort of perspective. And, today, it just so happens that there's an empty chair right next to mine. Would you like to sit a spell?

Close your eyes for a minute and take a look back over your life. What is it that you remember? What moments brought you the most joy?

I remember....a midnight train from Chicago to Philadelphia. I was traveling alone and I met this woman on her way to Pittsburgh. Her two kids slept while we talked all night. I don't remember what we talked about, but that was more than thirty years ago and I still remember her.

And I remember one New Year's Eve.....I was working on the Mississippi Queen and it was one of the "Big Band" cruises. Performing with them was Anna Maria Alberghetti. I don't know why, but something made me wonder if it was lonely for entertainers working during the holidays. So I invited her to our crew party that night and to everyone's amazement she came. She didn't stay long, but I will never forget how it touched her to be included.

These connections with people are what make the special moments in my life glow. Some last a lifetime. Some are as brief as a shared glance in passing. Connections validate our existence and prevent us from becoming invisible.

After all, we are social animals. And one of the perks of being gay has always been our sense of community. We use the word "family" to mean that someone is gay.  Unfortunately, past generations of our seniors lost touch with their community. And today, as partners and friends age and pass on, many older gays and lesbians become isolated and are losing their feeling of connection --- but their need does not lessen.

According to Karen Taylor, director of advocacy and training for the New York-based Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders, or SAGE, the nation's oldest senior network. "In many ways, this population is a mirror opposite of what the mainstream aging community looks like. The average senior in the United States lives with one other person; two-thirds of LGBT seniors live alone. If you don't have those informal support networks built into your life, then everything else becomes a bigger issue. Who forces you to go to the doctor? What happens if you fall?"

And who cares if you come home at night? Who notices if you are sad? How happy is the most wonderful of moments when you cannot share it?

Finding ways to reverse the trend toward isolation will be one of our greatest challenges. What can we do? Well, many folks have chosen to bypass any possibility of losing touch with the community by buying a piece of it! The gay retirement communities sprouting up across the country are as diverse as we are, but they fill the one need that we share --- the need to be connected to our family.

When we profiled six of these new communities, we learned that many residents are no where near retirement age. They just couldn't wait to move in! And who could blame them? By retirement, their connections will have deepened to that rich hue that old friendships possess.

The communities are all over the country, in different climates, different environments, offering different levels and kinds of services. What's your dream? A log home in the mountains? A thriving, extremely social community in south Florida? Want to live in the San Francisco bay area? How about a casita in the Pecos Wilderness or a first class resort in Santa Fe?

So the vistas and weather are very different, but they all share a core commitment to in an open, supportive and safe environment. They are communities where no one need fade away and become invisible.

These communities embody the very meaning of connection.

If you didn't receive a copy of The Top Gay Retirement (Or Not) Communities, just click here and we will send it to you right away.

Oh....one more memory from the comfort of my rocker. I was at a writer's conference and I was muttering to myself, wondering if the drink tickets I had would get me a margarita. This total stranger next to me smiled and said "Go for it." Now that's a connection! (See? Ann-Marie's suggestions are not always health oriented.)

 

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Do you know anyone who is perhaps in danger of slipping through the cracks? Someone without much of a support system that might benefit from being part of the OTGH community? Send them to the OTGH Newsletter Sign Up site and we will make sure they get on the list.

And if you have suggestions about what can be done to combat the isolation of aging, please share it with us at admin@onthegayhorizon.com .

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 A New Year's Revolution                               

By: Ann-Marie Giglio
Co-Publisher, On the Gay Horizon

In the spirit of new year assessments, we turn to the more spiritual areas of life --- the philosophy and force that drives you.  It's time to take stock.

The question to ask yourself this week is who am I?  As a person, who have I become this year? Take stock of the past year's effect on you. 

Everything you do and the people you spend time with all have an impact on who you are.  Peel back the layers you've applied this year if you don't like them.  Have you been dragged down this year by election outcomes, economy skids or just plain getting older?  Have you let any of that color who you've become, how you've interacted with your friends and family?  Has it affected how you feel?  Your health?

Who do you want to be when you grow up?  How does that measure up to who you are now?  If you're not all grown up, what can you do to get there?

When you're done assessing things, make a list.  Write down exactly what do you want to change.  And then write down what you will do to accomplish the change.  This is a true New Year's resolution list --- it comes from within.  Think of it as your revolution list.  Revolt against your old ways.  And rock on.

[Editor's Note: Ann-Marie Giglio, besides being a professional writer and the co-publisher of On the Gay Horizon, is the owner of a fitness studio focused on improving quality of life through the mind/body connection. She is a certified ChiRunning and ChiWalking instructor, AFAA certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness instructor and SCW certified Pilates reformer instructor.

 

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