Westborough, MA
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Shelby Marshall and Gail Hanson with daughter
Published By Michele Fan on June 12, 2018

LGBT Community Resources and Support

“Even though we are only 30 miles west of Boston, the LGBT community and resources are a world of difference,” says Shelby Marshall, senior vice president of Right at Home Eastern Worcester County. “If you are in Boston, it’s a much more active, engaged, lively and true LGBT community.” But in Westboro, a Boston suburb, the LGBT community is invisible.

BayPath Elder Services, a designated Massachusetts Aging Services Access Point, decided to launch an LGBT initiative to identify the needs of LGBT older adults in the Boston Metro West area, offer training to senior service providers, and develop a resource guide for LGBT elders.

The initiative includes an LGBT advisory team, a project team and a workgroup that work collaboratively on activities and information sessions to achieve the goals. Marshall joined the advisory team in 2017.

LGBT Elder-Friendly Home Care Agency in Westboro, MA

“I personally am a part of the LGBT community,” says Marshall. “Gail [Hanson] (president of Right at Home Eastern Worcester County) and I have been married for over 10 years. We have been together for twice as long as that. Although I am technically not in the elder category yet, a lot of our very close friends are. When you know them personally, you understand generationally how they have different views, concerns and personal experiences as a part of the community.”

Today, society is more open and accepting of LGBT people — for example, there are faith-based communities that welcome LGBT individuals. But for the older LGBT generation, many of them were not accepted socially, religiously or even by their friends and families. The personal experiences the older LGBT generation had during their adolescent and adult years continue to affect how they see society today.

Marshall thinks that home care agencies are therefore uniquely positioned to provide the kind of care that an LGBT elder would want. As an example, Marshall says, “If Gail and I were in our 60s and one of us got early Alzheimer’s and we decided to move into a senior living community, we would be with people who are 20 or 30 years older than us who may not be as open as our contemporaries, so that would not be a comfortable place for us to age.”

“Ideally, I think a lot of LGBT elders are most comfortable in their own homes and in their own skins,” Marshall adds. She and Gail have talked extensively about providing LGBT elder care training to their care staff and creating visibility for their agency as a welcoming place for LGBT seniors. Joining the BayPath Elder Services’ LGBT Initiative Advisory Team is the first step Marshall is taking to work toward this goal.


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