Ruby Project organizing aging LGBT group

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staff, Gazette
Monday, April 1, 2013

— The patient was born a male but had lived most of her life as a female.

While she was being cared for at a treatment facility for Alzheimer’s patients, the employees there did not understand how to deal with a transgender person and dressed her as a man.

When she became lucid, the patient couldn’t understand why she was dressed as man.

That story is prompting Deb Weberpal to take action.

Weberpal is organizing and will lead an Aging LGBT Adults Committee for The Ruby Project. She is a board member of the group that was created in 2012 in Janesville to educate and empower the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and allied youth community through support and services. Although its focus is on at-risk youth, the group extends services to any and all in need.

The 55-year-old Whitewater woman, who is coordinator of Whitewater’s senior center and has a sibling who is a lesbian, is searching for six to eight adults to participate in evening monthly meetings in Janesville.

The purpose is to educate both the LGBT and heterosexual community—especially those who work with older adults in nursing homes or assisting living centers—to recognize that LGBT people have special needs, she said.

Weberpal also wants the committee to find resources and social venues for older LGBT adults.

Initially, Weberpal said she wanted to form social and support groups—Gay and Gray—at the Whitewater Senior Center. But after researching the topic of aging LGBT adults, she discovered “it’ goes a lot deeper than providing social activities.”

“There are a lot more issues they have to deal with,’’ she said.

Those issues may include fear of mistreatment if they go to a nursing home or assisted living facility, social isolation and finding resources, Weberpal said.

The committee’s goal is to raise awareness and sensitivity to the issues of aging LGBT adults.

“We would like to find out what those exact issues are, then educate and create resources in the community,” Weberpal said.

“It’s creating awareness,” she said, “that there may be issues that aren’t being addressed.”

Last updated: 10:30 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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