Bruce Williams has received recognition before. His 2016 commentary in The Advocate, “LGBT Seniors Shouldn’t Die Penniless and Alone,” garnered thousands of views online and thousands of more shares and comments on social media. He’s been written about on the pages of SFGN as a consummate advocate for LGBT seniors.
Friends and colleagues say Williams deserves the credit he has gotten and the attention he has received. More kudos are about to come his way.
“There aren’t many people in the world who have done as much to directly support our LGBT older adults,” said Jerry Chasen, the director of legacy planning at SAGE.
SAGE (Service and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) is one of the country’s oldest and largest organizations dedicated to issues of those who are older. The group is hosting a fundraising gala that will honor Williams on April 12 in Fort Lauderdale.
“Believe me when I tell you I know what I’m talking about,” Chasen said. “We’re in this business all over the country and what Bruce has done in Fort Lauderdale is truly extraordinary.”
Williams has been very outspoken about his own life, including being fired at a job in Houston because he is gay. His weekly “Coffee & Conversation” at The Pride Center in Wilton Manors, where he is the senior services coordinator, attracts hundreds of attendees on most Tuesdays.
Williams, 71, tackles many of the issues that LGBT seniors face, such as being twice as likely to live alone and not partnered, and three to four times more likely to not have kids. LGBT seniors are also more likely to experience disability and depression than their counterparts in the general population.
His background is steeped in helping those in his own demographic. Williams has been a caseworker for a county department of social services; a social worker in an acute-care hospital; an executive director in an independent living and assisted living organization; and a licensed nursing home administrator.
“[The] experience has allowed me to view a full spectrum of adulthood, ranging from living completely on one’s own, to the plethora of health, psychological and financial issues that we face as we continue through our second 50 years,” he said.
Williams has seen the number of seniors participating in programming at The Pride Center increase over the years.
“[Coffee & Conversation] used to be 25 to 30 individuals,” he said. “The basic reason for the jump in attendance is that we now afford a greater opportunity for the attendees to socialize with one another [and] we do a series of brief announcements of community events.”
The social time is important because LGBT seniors as a group, said Williams, are far more isolated in their later years.
“They often have little if any biological family support and generally fewer psychological, financial and community resources,” he said. “Attendees gather for fun, but at the same time, they are also exposed to a constantly growing number of valuable community resources.”
Williams would like to see people deal with the issues facing LGBT seniors in a more compassionate and holistic way.
“Sadly as a society we generally deal with our old age only on a crisis basis. As a result of what I have witnessed, I am absolutely convinced that a planned future is an enhanced future,” Williams said.
SAGE & Friends Fort Lauderdale
April 12, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Event is at the home of Scott Bennett (address provided upon registration)
SAGE CEO Michael Adams scheduled to attend
Website: sageusa.org (click on “events”)