Honouring Our Elders: Celebrating Aging and Advocacy on International Pride Day

Honouring Our Elders: Celebrating Aging and Advocacy on International Pride Day 

Alisha OstbergBlog, Gay Pride, Gay Rights, international

“I believe International Pride Day focuses on those who still endure suffering. In Canada and elsewhere, many people continue to struggle with the decision of whether it’s safe to be open about their lives and live authentically. For me, International Pride is about remembering these individuals, including those who died during the HIV/AIDS epidemic and faced rejection from society. Today, while many only hear about HIV/AIDS in passing, we should also be proud of those living with HIV and advocate for LGBTQ rights and HIV-positive individuals’ rights. It’s a celebration of all these aspects.” – Edgar, Board Member of Rainbow Elders Calgary

 

On International Pride Day, we celebrate the vibrant lives within the 2SLGBTQ+ community. This year, we spoke to Edgar, a recent graduate of SafeLink Alberta’s practicum program and Board Member at Rainbow Elders Calgary. 

From Peru to Calgary: A Decade of Dedication 

Edgar, in his late 50s, has lived in Canada for over a decade. On the day of this interview, he had earned his certification as an addiction and disability community support worker. His journey from a chemical engineer in Peru to a community supporter in Calgary shows his dedication to his community. 

“I am originally from Peru,” Edgar begins. “I arrived in Canada almost ten years ago. My partner and I will have been living in Calgary for a decade this July.” Reflecting on his early days in Canada, Edgar emphasizes getting involved. “The only way you want to learn about Canada or the country you live in is to be involved with society. So, I decided to start with volunteer activities,” he explains. 

Image of an older woman wearing red lipstick, large gold starfish earrings, and yellow jacket.

Volunteering and Advocacy 

Edgar’s volunteer journey led him to various organizations. He facilitated sessions for new immigrants in his work with the Salvation Army and Outlink. “In my job as a volunteer coordinator, I was in contact with very young people from other countries who were rejected by society due to laws against homosexuality,” Edgar recounts. “Many of them had trauma and adaptation issues. But there were very few older people, which made me want to understand more about what happens with that other society group.” 

Supporting 2SLGBTQ+ Seniors: Rainbow Elders Calgary 

Rainbow Elders Calgary is a volunteer-run, non-profit organization working to make significant differences in the lives of 2SLGBTQ+ seniors. Edgar’s involvement with Rainbow Elders Calgary started by sharing stories. “You know, I think for me, talking with them is the most important thing… I like to learn more about the person, you know? I found different people who were sportsmen; they were artists. They were in the military force. I think that we have a lot of wonderful people who are seniors and LGBTQ, but we need to discover them and listen to them.” 

Addressing Isolation and the Need for Social Interaction  

One pressing issue facing seniors is isolation. “I think it is very important for people considered senior to be in contact with other people,” Edgar states. “We had two years of COVID, which was a horrible situation for many, especially seniors. They started to have mental health problems and thoughts about loneliness.”  

He also emphasizes the need for social interaction and community support, particularly for seniors who may face discrimination in care facilities. “Sometimes, in senior groups, they don’t understand very well the situation of a person who is gay, lesbian, or trans. Many of them still suffer discrimination in these facilities,” Edgar notes. “It’s important to be close, to talk with other people, especially seniors who are gay, lesbian, or trans.” 

Life Changes and Community Support 

“Every person changes over the years. Sometimes you become a widower, or break up a relationship, or start with some kind of physical or mental disease,” he shares. “My mom had dementia and cancer. It’s important to be close and talk with other people, especially seniors who may have low income or personal stories that need to be heard.” 

Gratitude and Growth in Canada 

Reflecting on his journey, Edgar expresses gratitude for the opportunities he has had to learn and grow in Canada. “I think one of my perspectives of Canada is how many things you can do that you couldn’t do in your own country. Here, I found the opportunity to look for other activities and learn new skills,” he says. 

In addition to his role with Rainbow Elders Calgary, Edgar gained invaluable experience as a practicum student at SafeLink Alberta. During his time there, he worked on projects that addressed the health and well-being of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, such as mental health support and access to healthcare, further honing his skills and deepening his commitment to advocacy. 

Two older men on the street, talking and smiling. Than man on the right clasps the man on the left's shoulders in a familiar way.

Advocating for Aging 2SLGBTQI Individuals 

 As a Rainbow Elders Calgary board member, Edgar’s work is not just about advocacy; it’s about making a real difference. He continues to advocate for better understanding and support for aging 2SLGBTQI individuals. His story reminds us of the strength and resilience within this community and the importance of celebrating their lives and contributions on International Pride Day. His work provides hope for a more inclusive and understanding society. 

International Pride Day: A Call to Action 

For Edgar, International Pride Day is more than a celebration—it is a call to action. “I believe International Pride Day focuses on those who still endure suffering. In Canada and elsewhere, many people continue to struggle with the decision of whether it’s safe to be open about their lives and live authentically. For me, International Pride is about remembering these individuals, including those who died during the HIV/AIDS epidemic and faced rejection from society. Today, while many only hear about HIV/AIDS in passing, we should also be proud of those living with HIV and advocate for LGBTQ rights and HIV-positive individuals’ rights. It’s a celebration of all these aspects.”

About Rainbow Elders Calgary

Rainbow Elders Calgary is a volunteer-run, non-profit organization dedicated to making significant differences in the lives of 2SLGBTQ+ seniors. Since its inception in early 2018, the organization has actively participated in the Calgary Pride Parade, even leading the parade in 2022. Their mission is to advocate for 2SLGBTQ+ seniors, foster connections with queer youth, and create a society where everyone can safely express their identity. Rainbow Elders Calgary combats social isolation among seniors by organizing social events and recreational opportunities, such as their monthly “Coffee, Cookies and Chat” meetups. These gatherings, held on the first Wednesday of each month at Calgary’s Kerby Centre, provide a welcoming space for friendship, conversation, and event planning.

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