On February 21, 2019, the Herczeg Institute on Aging hosted a conference for researchers and professionals who interact with LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) older adults. The conference was organized in collaboration with The Aguda –The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel; JDC-Eshel (Israel); Hoshen - the public education and awareness-raising arm of the LGBT community in Israel, and the Social Services Department at Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality and the Tel Aviv Municipal LGBT Community Center.

The Conference started with a welcome speech and greetings from Professor Dov Shmotkin, Head of the Herczeg Institute; Dr. Einat Argavan, Head of Aging Section in the Social Services Department of Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality; Ms. Chen Ariely, Head of the Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel; and Mr. Yossi Heymann, Executive Director of JDC-Eshel.

The program then continued with a lecture by Dr. Yitschak Schnoor (Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute, Jerusalem) entitled Needs of the aging LGBT community in Israel (together with Dr. Ayelet Berg-Warman). The lecture mapped the difficulties experienced by older LGBT people, particularly in the fields of health and social services. The results showed that social difficulties of old age, such as loneliness and isolation, are augmented among aging LGBT. Moreover, older LGBT experience concerns when contacting social and health services, largely due to their fear of disclosing their sexual orientation or identity.

Next was Attorney Michal Eden, the Principal of LGBT Rights at the Israel Bar Association, who delivered a lecture entitled: Legal issues of LGBT seniors. The lecture summarized the legal failures and difficulties that disrupt lives of older LGBT during crises, such as hospitalization or bereavement. This community is facing double discrimination on the grounds of age and sexual orientation. The lecture concluded with a review of some possible solutions to these difficulties.  

The next lecture was by Dr. Kfir Ifrah (Ruppin Academic Center) and Dr. Geva Shenkman Lachberg (IDC Herzliya), entitled: Psychological well-being among gay and bisexual adults and older men in Israel: Challenges alongside strengths. The lecture presented findings from recent studies depicting the duality of resilience versus vulnerability, as it manifested in different aspects of mental health among aging and older homosexuals. In this group, for example, negative psychological attitudes toward aging related to higher vulnerability, while parenting related to higher levels of meaning in life. These findings, together with other studies, could be applicative to clinicians and counselors working with older gay men.

Concluding this part of the conference was Dr. Ruth Litwin, a clinical social worker, with her lecture entitled: When sexism, homophobia and ageism meet: Lesbianism in late life.  The lecture dealt with acknowledging and valuing the narrative of aging lesbian women – who try to gain visibility and acknowledgment after a long period of hiding and social rejection. The lecture also addressed the difficulties of aging lesbians when contacting social and mental health services, and offered possible solutions for it.

The conference ended with a panel of aging LGBT people who shared their life stories. This panel was moderated by Neta Wolf, coordinator of LGBT older adults in Hoshen. The participants were: Efrat Tilma (71), one of the first trans women in Israel, a volunteer in the Israeli Police, and author of the book: “And this one will be called a woman" (In Hebrew); Mordechai Zilberman (85), who lately lost his spouse after 60 years of partnership, and is now active in senior LGBT issues; and Rubin Rosenblum (64), a clinical social worker, who works in public organizations and in a private clinic, and is an activist in the gay community.

The panel members spoke about their coping with discriminative and exclusionary attitudes towards their gender and sexual orientation, but also about moments of fulfilment and happiness.  

The Herczeg Institute wishes to thank all the lecturers, participants and organizations who took part in this important and successful event.

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Dr. Kfir Ifrah (Ruppin Academic Center) and shelly Natan, manager of psych-social field, Aguda –The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel