72-year-old Hector Zuazo used to spent a lot more time around young people. But since he retired from teaching, keeping up with younger generations of queer people has been a struggle. And that’s not surprising.
Loneliness and isolation are huge problems for senior citizens. But those problems are even more pronounced for America’s 1.5 million LGBT elders, who are twice as likely to live alone, and four times less likely to have kids. So this year, one organization tried to change that by putting together an intergenerational LGBT speed mentorship pairing event. And Zuazo was among the attendees.
“It’s a great idea because we need to make young people realize what we went through and what we need to back each other up,” Zuazo told VICE News on the day before the event.
The event, which took place in Miami in April, was organized by SAGE, America’s largest organization dedicated to queer elders. And for Michael Adams, SAGE’s CEO, the need for this kind of an event is clear. The LGBT community isn’t built around traditional family structures, he says, pointing to the fact that both young and old members are often estranged from their families. And “we have the fact that we lived through — and fought through, and died through — the AIDS epidemic, where we lost a whole generation of people,” Adams told VICE News. So “this is an experiment in how we bring all that back together.”
At the end of the night, Hector, who’d attended the event with his husband, Bob, had formed connections with two younger men, and hoped to meet with them again. The first could help him with technology, he explained, whereas the second wanted to learn how to cook.
Another attendee, 30-year-old Anthony Black, who’d heard about the event through a friend, also hoped to keep in touch with some of the mentors with which he’d been paired. “I think my biggest takeaway is that I can hang out with people of any age,” he said.
VICE News traveled to Miami to document one of SAGE’s very first LGBT speed mentorship pairing events.
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