Old Age is No Place for Sissies

"I would love to one of these days sit around a table and don't have to worry about being afraid to tell my story." Film Participant


OLD AGE IS NO PLACE FOR SISSIES illuminates some of the complex issues that the LGBT community face as they transition to their senior years.

Coming out is a lifelong process, and for many Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,Transgender (LGBT) seniors, coming out to health care providers orresidential care facilities becomes a scary prospect, because of alifelong history of discrimination.  This pushes many LGBT seniors intoa closet of isolation.  This type of social isolation compromises aperson's sense of well-being.  And without the same family structure ofsupport as their heterosexual counterparts, LGBT seniors are at an evengreater risk of not accessing the help they need, when they need it.  Openhouse, a San Francisco based organization, recognizes the unique situationthat LGBT seniors find themselves in, and works diligently to ensurethat the long-term care system for seniors is aware of the LGBT seniorcommunity.  Anyone, regardless of sexuality, can learn from the eldersin their community.  Aging in America looks different then it did 50years ago, and it is never too early to start thinking of your ownfuture identity as a senior.

In Old Age Is No Place For Sissies, activists from openhouse share their stories of owning their identityand the struggles for inclusion. As this new chapter in their livesunfold, the struggles that many of these seniors faced during the earlyyears of the LGBT movement, resurfaces as they navigate accessingsenior services, or building a sense of community and visibility.   There siliency of this tenacious generation is revealed in their personaland inspirational stories.



Discussion Guide*

This discussion guide can be used to start conversations about aging.


  • Aging and Identity
  • Inclusion and Visibility
  • Resiliency

Discussion Questions

  • In your community, how is aging viewed?
  • What does a caregiver have to consider as their love ages?  Are there any considerations to keep in mind when your love one is part of the LGBT community?
  • At the senior discussion group, one senior states, "I thought as I got older, I would just relax, but apparently that's not the case."   How does this relate to his continued fight to gain respect and acceptance of the LGBT community? How would this affect an LGBT senior when they search for housing?


Facts & Resources


  • According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force ('Selling Us Short", 2005), there are about 2.9 million LGBT people over the age of 55 in the U.S and estimated to grow to 4 million by 2030.
  •  LGBT seniors are two times more likely than heterosexual seniors to live alone and five times less likely than heterosexual seniors to access needed services for fear of discrimination. (http://www.newsweek.com/id/159509)
  • 20% of the LGBT community have no one to call on for help due to that only one quarter of the gay men and one half of lesbians have children. In a survey asking 700 LGBT seniors 50 and over, it revealed that about 75% of gay men and 50% of the lesbians reported their relationship status as single. (De Vries) 
  • Less than 20% of LGBT seniors in the Bay Area access traditional senior care providers due to a fear of discrimination based on sexuality. (http://www.openhouse-sf.org
  • There is an increasing need for residential housing that are sensitive to seniors with HIV. 35% of people with HIV are 50 and older, 70% are over 40 years of age. (http://www.newsweek.com/id/159517)



Meet the Filmmakers

Charlie Vaughn headshotCHARLIE VAUGHN: A background in acting led Charlie Vaughn to documentary filmmaking. When he was researching a role, he would always turn to documentaries,until finally, documentaries were more interesting to him thanfiction.  Everyone has a story that reveals some truth about your ownlife, no matter how unlike you they seem to be. His first film, a Gay/Christian musical entitled Flight to Sinai, is an official entry at Frameline 33, the SF International LGBT Film Festival.  Last year's documentary collaboration, Laughter (Rx): No Harmful Side Effects, won Viewer's Choice at the 1st Annual SFSU Human Rights Summit Film Festival.  



    JACKSON YAN : Jackson Yan graduated from UC Davis as an English major and completed his Master's in English at SFSU.




    *The information on these pages is provided by the student film makers and does not represent an endorsement or verification of statements from the Health Equity Institute