- Written by Dave Gott, Rainbow Elders Group Facilitator, (pronouns: he and they)
- Published: 08 May 2020
During the first week of COVID my personal and work life kind of shut down. It was largely spent canceling plans and grieving the loss of them. Then I was able to attend an area gay/bi men’s support group Zoom meeting, which felt very heartening. I immediately decided that I would like to offer that to the Rainbow Elders. Our steering committee volunteers enthusiastically agreed and offered their attendance, LifePath staff initiated its ongoing support, and we launched our first virtual gathering on March 26.
Probably like many others attending virtual meetings, participants have welcomed the relief from isolation that our gathering provides.
With the COVID crisis presenting huge unknowns, we hoped that we could offer a true safety net to LGBTIQA elders, some of whom have a unique risk for contracting the illness and who are often more susceptible to isolation than other elders. It seemed and still seems important through the month of May to offer this opportunity weekly so that folks can know they have someplace to take concerns, share support, and provide resources.
I miss our wonderful monthly luncheons at the South County Senior Center! However, we have averaged 15 people attending per virtual gathering, so folks are having much more regular opportunity to see one another than before. Mastery of the technology has been both a challenge and an opportunity. A few people have dropped out for now due to those challenges, while others have mastered the use of our platform. Some attend by phone, while most come with a screen view of their surroundings. Certain people, who find it difficult for various reasons to travel to our luncheons, find it easy to attend these gatherings. Others from various New England communities have joined us as they prepare for their local LGBTIQA elders groups to offer something similar, or just in order to meet others.
Probably like many others attending virtual meetings, participants have welcomed the relief from isolation that our gathering provides. Some have described their fears and the courage it has taken to venture out of their homes for essential activities, while others describe their choice to remain at home as much as possible. We have discussed contingency plans in the case of illness, offered support for specific challenges people are encountering, and shared stories regarding our varied experiences as LGBTIQA elders.
It often takes a while to do check-ins, due to the number of participants as well as the importance of including COVID-related experiences and responses. A few lively group conversations have ensued, although I think we are still getting our sea legs in that regard. Spirited sharing has long been a hallmark of our in-person events, but technology may at the moment be hampering possibilities in that regard. We are looking into what may be done about this. Also, participants are sharing lots of resources and we are experimenting with ways to easily share those during or after the gatherings.
How might virtual Rainbow Elders gatherings evolve in the future? The group will decide. If we continue them on a less frequent basis once our society opens up again, they might offer a great supplement to in-person events with a smaller carbon footprint, and as a complement or replacement for those who find travel challenging.
Here’s to all of us emerging from COVID more connected to ourselves and to our various communities of care!