Older adults program connects LGBT students during pandemic

Gary Buz Hermes teaches a class called Aging Gayfully! through SRJCs Older Adults Program.

Courtesy of The Press Democrat

Gary “Buz” Hermes teaches a class called “Aging Gayfully!” through SRJC’s Older Adults Program.

Gary "Buz" Hermes, Instructor, SRJC Older Adults Program

I am an 81-year old gay elder and an instructor with SRJC’s Older Adults Program.  As a long-time advocate for my LGBT peers, I was very excited and grateful when I was hired by the college to offer them a class called “Aging Gayfully!” It was scheduled to begin in October of 2017. Of course that’s when the devastating fires began and the class was interrupted for several weeks and then again by the fire last Fall. As if that wasn’t enough, this pandemic threatened to end our weekly connections and our discussions about LGBT aging half-way through the Spring semester!

The class is very important to more than 30 LGBT elders who, like myself, had to spend much of their adult lives having to hide who they were in order to survive in a culture that had not yet accepted or protected them. They are therefore much more prone to isolation. When the class was suspended at the Spring Break, there was no question that I needed to quickly find a way for us to continue connecting on-line. Having grown up long before “The Information Age,” I sometimes am challenged by new technology. However, using on-line tutorials, I managed to learn how to host a Zoom meeting. Thanks to being able to use the professional version of Zoom available through the college, I was able to begin hosting virtual weekly gatherings immediately after the break so that we can continue to connect and support each other with our aging issues and share ways to cope in these extremely challenging times.