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New program aimed at keeping LGBTQ seniors connected during COVID-19

Posted at 4:56 AM, Apr 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 15:43:43-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - No question, things can get pretty lonely during a global pandemic, especially for minority groups with an older population.

"We found in a survey that one in three Americans, over 45% report feeling lonely. But that number goes to 50% when we talk about LGBTQ seniors," says JP Martin, Equality Arizona.

They're a group that may not always come to mind but are at high-risk while the entire planet is under quarantine.

"LGBTQ seniors feel overwhelmed and threatened. They're isolated; sometimes there are food shortages, and there's still really intense discrimination," says Martin.

To help buck that trend, a new program called "Golden Friends" spearheaded by the non-profit Equality Arizona, connects volunteers with LGBTQ seniors through WIFI-enabled tablets.

"The impact of connecting someone to the internet is huge," says Martin. "But then giving them the tools to really relish in that, especially at this time where we've all been stuck at home for almost a month now."

So how's it going to work?

"We wipe the machine, and then we have our own Apple ID's, so you don't have to remember any passwords," says Martin. "We pre-install Zoom, we pre-setup the meetings."

Those tablets are on a lease program, and they're delivered to seniors who sign up. Then the fun begins.

"You and your mentor, or you and your friend already have these meetings set up. We're going to send some instructions in large font. The bare minimum that we're going to ask is that you join us on Friday's for the 'elder discussion' so you start forming this friendship," says Martin.

And if you're interested in volunteering?

"Your commitment would be putting in your availability: what days you prefer, what times you prefer. Whether it would be weekend or weekdays, we can be really flexible," says Martin. "We also have some interest questions to see what kind of match you'd like to have."

So there you have it. Golden Friends is a program designed to bring those who need kinship the most some much-needed human interaction. Because let's face it: getting through a global pandemic is much easier with a little help from your friends.

Click here if you would like to sign up to be a volunteer, or just learn more about the Golden Friends program.