From the Philadelphia Inquirer
February 23, 2017
When he set out to study gay men on the cusp of old age, Jesus Ramirez-Valles expected to find psychological fallout from the AIDS epidemic that darkened the years in which these baby boomers came of age. He did. What surprised him was how many in a group that had championed sexual freedom were now lonely and wishing they had partners to grow old with.
People of all orientations are imbued with the idea that happiness and fulfillment are found in being part of a couple, he said. “Despite the marriage equality movement, a lot of these guys missed the boat” on finding a partner, he said, and many have no children.
The oldest boomers turned 65 in 2011, so most are not yet facing the most serious health problems encountered in old age. The men Ramirez-Valles interviewed were evaluating their lives as they approached a new chapter. Some felt pride in their accomplishments, but there was also guilt about having survived AIDS when friends did not, sadness at the added emphasis on youth in gay culture, and a desire for deeper connection. Ramirez-Valles said age discrimination is worse in the gay community because many men rely on sex to build friendships.
One man told Ramirez-Valles that he had never had a partner and wanted to experience that before he died. He had managed not to contract HIV and, as a result, felt pressured to be a role model. “If I’m left, I have to be the best little gay boy every,” he said.
He thinks that it’s a bad idea to segregate the elderly in separate housing. Younger people need to learn about aging, and older people need a more stimulating environment.
He and his husband are already planning to move to Mexico, where Ramirez-Valles grew up. “We’re planning a communal house in Mexico where we can afford help,” he said.