Arlene has been with her partner, Sally, for 50 years — and although she says that it’s wonderful to have been with the same person for such a long time, she emphasizes the need to seek out community.
“As I got older, the need for that kind of community was becoming more acute and important to me. It became apparent to me that in order to have a purposeful rest of my life, I needed to try to expand my community, and find other outlets where I can be a part of something.”
While applying to volunteer at an organization that supports LGBTQ youth, Arlene ended up in a conversation with one of the employees. Though she was aware that she was at least 50 years older than the woman she was speaking to, she recalls feeling comfortable and valued.
“Knowing I was valued for my age and sexual orientation made me feel happy because I could be me. No more pretense…just me. I felt comfortable, and felt like my age didn’t make a difference – we were just two people talking. I had respect for her, and likewise, she respected my ideas and who I was.”
Arlene now volunteers at several organizations, including SAGE, a nonprofit that advocates for LGBT seniors. Through these organizations, Arlene has been able to find new communities, and has found a creative outlet that has helped her be happier than ever. Her experiences have also given her the confidence to discover her existing community.
“As I became more comfortable with myself, I started to be more open with my neighbors, letting them get to know me in a way I hadn’t before. People want to be accepting if they understand. You can educate people by being open.”