Pathways of Understanding and Accessibility
LGBTQIA+ seniors face the typical challenges of aging but are also at higher risk for abuse, isolation, discrimination, and exploitation because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Pathways, our LGBTQIA+ Initiative, was started at BayPath about five years ago and is coordinated by Julie Nowak (she/ they). With the merger of BayPath and Springwell, we’re excited to expand Pathways further into Belmont, Brookline, Needham, Newton, Waltham, Watertown, Wellesley, and Weston. As always, Pathways services and resources are available to individuals from all communities.
Pathways offers confidential one-on-one support as well as free conversational gatherings and special events for LGBTQIA+ older adults and SOFFAs (Significant Others, Family, Friends, & Allies). GRAY PRIDE cultural competency training sessions help expand knowledge and understanding of the rainbow community, and can help provide information, support, and resources. At the heart of Pathways services and programs is our mission of building community. “By making spaces for conversations, explorations, and celebrations, we create pathways of understanding, insight, and accessibility to create a web of support,” Julie acknowledges, “We are all allies of one another.”
Pathways events include weekly virtual coffee hours (hopefully soon becoming hybrid conversations), our Pathways Café community meal site (currently virtual, meeting in person later this autumn), and weekly creative gatherings in our virtual Dune Shack. In this “artspace,” guests learn about LGBTQIA+ artists and play creative thinking games, and anyone working on their own artwork is welcome to showcase their creations.
Pathways events are open to guests who identify as LGBTQIA+, SOFFAs, and anyone questioning their own sexual orientation, sexual identity, and/or gender identity. They create great opportunities for intergenerational conversations although some topics of discussion (such as the causes/events of the Stonewall Uprising) may be better suited to a mature audience. Julie shares that, “during Pathways gatherings, we’ve witnessed people who have felt deeply isolated finding support, making new friends, and gathering insights that help them live more authentically.”
Julie reflects upon how, in just five years, we’ve had so many guests who have gained so much from the Pathways program: “One first-time caller came out as transgender in her seventies and became an activist supporting others. Another met ‘someone like me’ for the first time in their life. Grandparents caring for nonbinary grandchildren have learned how to be better allies to their loved ones. ‘Late bloomers’ have grown more comfortable and confident while chatting with peers and have come out during Zoom calls. It’s been an amazing journey!”
Julie acknowledges, “We live in uncertain times, and our connection with others helps us cope with the stresses we face. The ongoing goal of Pathways is to keep connecting more people. I’m always happy to find info, support, and resources.” If you would like to learn more, please contact Julie Nowak at (508) 573-7288 (direct line with confidential voicemail) or visit www.springwell.com/service/lgbtqia-initiative.