December 15 2022
Interviewed by Ashley Flanagan
Dr. Celeste Pang is a Senior Research Officer at Egale Canada, where her research focuses on 2SLGBTQI aging, health, and housing issues. Learn more about research at Egale.
Q: How did you become interested in aging issues?
Good question! I’ve never understood why “age” is such a widespread and seemingly acceptable category of difference and discrimination. Chronological age matters, and perceptions of people’s ages matter in so many ways in our everyday lives. Why? That’s where my interest stems from. As a younger queer person, I became interested in the situations of older LGBTQ adults. For my PhD research I did ethnographic fieldwork (or “deep hanging out”) with LGBTQ older adults’ living in long-term care homes and community settings in Toronto, Ontario. This was before COVID-19. The pandemic has really shone a light on the disparities that older adults and the people who support them face.
Q: Why should younger people be involved in aging issues?
We are all aging! So looked at in one way, there should be a very selfish impetus. More than that, what even are “aging issues”? These are issues about affordable housing, about healthcare access, about challenging ableism. There is so much potential to address these shared issues collectively.
Q: Can you tell me about the research and work that Egale does around 2SLGBTQI aging and older adult issues?
Egale has done a range of work on 2SLGBTQI aging and older adult issues, including advance care planning, elder abuse prevention, housing, and caregiving and healthcare access issues. Strong collaborations with other agencies and organizations have been an important part of this work, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing collaborators in my current role! For instance, in 2021 we collaborated with the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse to create a pan-Canadian engagement strategy on elder abuse prevention. Through 2020-2021, Egale hosted Rainbow Table, a virtual space for 2SLGBTQI older adults and allies to connect. We are also building a strong, funded, program of research in this area, which I think you’re going to ask me more about!
Q: Egale will soon be releasing a new report, Aging & Living Well: Beyond Health Considerations for LGBTQI Older Adults. What are some of the main findings in that report?
This report is based on interviews we conducted with 48 LGBTQI older adults living across Canada. The research focused on better understanding the social and material conditions and healthcare access issues that people were facing. We learned so much! One of the main findings that I’d highlight is how many LGBTQI older adults have faced employment discrimination over life, and have navigated their jobs and careers in homophobic and transphobic environments. This has had very real impacts on the types of work they could pursue, and on many people’s financial security later in life. Especially among people who were single and lived alone, we heard about financial challenges meeting basic needs and the challenges of finding work as an older person. Healthcare access and housing also emerged as major themes.
Q: Can you tell me more about the issue of housing, and the challenges that our communities face?
Access to affordable housing is a hot-button topic right now, across all age groups and communities. With the costs of renting and owning going up, many people are struggling. There’s been some excellent research and programming focused on 2SLGBTQI youth homelessness. However, much less attention has been paid to the situations that older adults in our communities are facing. Our research has found that housing security – including affordability and safety – is a key issue among 2SLGBTQI older adults. People want to live in environments where they feel safe, that are physically accessible, and where they can be with their loved ones, in community, or alone when they want to be. In our research, we heard calls for greater homecare and social support services to enable people to age in their homes, as well as a lot of enthusiasm for different types of intergenerational and collective living models.
Q: What else are you working on now?
We’re currently wrapping a project called “Fostering Dialogues”, an arts-based action research project that brought together 2SLGBTQI older adults with personal support workers. We had 14 participants take part in a series of virtual dialogue & arts sessions exploring themes of home, care, and futures of community-based care. These were co-facilitated by Artivist Melanie Schambach. The conversations and explorations with images and metaphor have been so powerful. I can’t wait for the collective art piece to be on display!
Q: What resources do you recommend people check out?
All of them! For some recent work that we’ve done at Egale, I’d recommend these resources focused on dementia care, financial elder abuse, and advance care planning: