On November 12, Paul Glass and Charles D. Evans of Falmouth, Massachusetts, were recognized with this year’s AARP Andrus Award for Community Service. This award is AARP’s most prestigious and visible volunteer award for community service, honoring individuals whose contributions make a unique and valuable impact on their community and society, aligning with AARP’s vision and mission.
Notably, Glass and Evans are the first married and Black gay couple in AARP’s history to receive this award. They have dedicated their lives to making a positive difference in their community, generously sharing their knowledge, experience, talents, and skills to enrich the lives of others.
Both Glass and Evans have carried a spirit of giving and community service from their childhoods into their adult lives. Their commitment to serving their community has been unwavering. Their remarkable contributions and leadership led AARP Massachusetts to recognize their outstanding efforts.
The couple’s notable achievements include co-founding LGBTQ+ Elders of Color in Massachusetts in 2013. This organization was created to address the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ seniors, especially those who are people of color. At the time of its founding, there was no such organization, making their initiative innovative, courageous, and pioneering. Their leadership has not only co-founded the organization but also inspired many others to join in this important work.
LGBTQ+ seniors of color often face multiple challenges and complexities as they age. These challenges include underrepresentation and lack of adequate services and resources. Glass and Evans have shown a deep understanding of these intersectional issues, having firsthand experience as African-American gay men growing older.
The organization they co-founded, LGBTQ+ Elders of Color, fills a crucial gap in Massachusetts’ LGBTQ+ services and support. The outreach efforts of this organization are essential because the challenges faced by Black LGBTQ+ seniors become more pronounced with age.
Statistics from Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) and the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) reveal that approximately one-third of LGBTQ+ elders live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, with 40 percent of them being Black. These seniors often feel vulnerable, invisible, and isolated in their retirement years, experiencing a lifetime of disparities, limited resources, and discrimination.
Policy changes, cultural competency training, and nondiscrimination policies are needed to support this growing demographic group. By 2050, LGBTQ+ seniors are expected to number around 3 million, with a significant portion being people of color.
In 2018, Massachusetts legislators passed “An Act Relative to LGBT Awareness Training for Aging Services Providers,” mandating LGBTQ+ cultural awareness training for all state-funded and licensed aging service providers within 12 months of employment. Such initiatives are crucial for addressing the unique needs of LGBTQ+ elders, particularly those who are people of color.
Paul Glass and Charles D. Evans exemplify the impact individuals can have on their community and society through their dedication to making a difference. Their advocacy and service provide vital resources and support for LGBTQ+ elders of color. Their contributions have strengthened the LGBTQ+ community and improved the well-being and visibility of LGBTQ+ seniors, particularly those with multiple identities.
Their recognition with the AARP Andrus Award for Community Service highlights their outstanding commitment to service and their essential role in supporting LGBTQ+ elders, ensuring they receive the care, resources, and recognition they deserve.