Hector Zuazo and Robert Medina are happily married, a commitment made in Toronto, Canada 11 years ago because marriage equality had yet to pass in the U.S. back in 2006.
Today, in their early 70s, the couple is thinking of their future, one that includes aging in a community where many LGBT seniors do not have spouses or children to take care of them in the latter part of their lives.
Zuazo, a retired teacher, and Medina, a former system technician with AT&T, decided to start an elderly gay organization that will look out for LGBT seniors in their old age. Hence, Lambda Living, an affordable housing initiative for LGBT seniors, was born.
On Wednesday, July 26, North Miami city leaders and community members came out for the launch of the project in an open house setting near Edgewater. There, Cindy Brown, manager of the Lambda Living senior program, and Fred Stock, president and CEO of Jewish Community Services, spoke to open house attendees of the challenges LGBT seniors face today.
“Not only are older LGBT people confronting the traditional challenges of aging, they are also encountering issues particular to the LGBT community,” Brown said. These challenges include lack of support and caregiving; greater likelihood of living alone; higher rates of poverty; and cultural and social isolation.
Since these are some of the realities facing the older LGBT community, Brown said the Lambda Living program can help LGBT seniors live a much more fulfilling life. Through the initiative, workshops offer LGBT seniors education on financial planning and literacy; tax, insurance and disability issues; computer training; and technology for people with disabilities. Social activities include dine outs, group outings and field trips; music and theatre performances; lunch with relevant speakers; activities for veterans; and transgender-focused events.
Sponsored by Jewish Community Services of South Florida (JCS), Lambda Living will offer a variety of programs and services to the aging LGBT community throughout Miami-Dade County.
The 15-unit housing program is LGBT-focused and intergenerational for seniors and young adults, providing supportive services, such as counseling, case management, bereavement groups, educational workshops and social activities intended to facilitate LGBT seniors’ independent living skills.
“We had a dream to start an elderly gay organization for the oldest marginalized gay people who don’t have a place to go, who are homeless,” Zuazo said. “I’m 72; my husband is 71. Our commitment is before we hit 80, we need to have a home, a place for elderly gay people who are alone, struggling and homeless.”
The intergenerational aspect of the program mirrors a luncheon Zuazo and Medina host at their home monthly, where elderly and young LGBT people converge to discuss LGBT history and equal rights violations still happening today.
North Miami Councilman Scott Galvin, one of the few openly gay politicians in South Florida, said the Lambda Living senior project is going to be great for LGBT seniors.
“I’m really excited that JCS and Lambda Living is leading the charge on affordable housing for all and that they are coming to North Miami to further that mission here,” Galvin said. “Affordable housing is so hard to find in South Florida. We are one of the worst major metropolitan areas when it comes to affordable housing, and that goes for our elders, as well. A lot of the elderly GLBT community don’t have family to support them. They couldn’t get married, they didn’t get married, they don’t have children, they don’t have grandkids. So by having affordable housing that’s supporting the GLBT lifestyle, it’s going to go a long way to making a lot of people happy.”
For more information on Lambda Living and other JCS services for the LGBT community, call 305-576-6550 or visit https://jcsfl.org/services/lgbt.