Caregiver Voices: Harry Hartigan Helps Older Community Members Find Connection and Support
The Rev. Harry Hartigan is a caregiver for the community in big and small ways. He checks in daily or weekly on at least eight older adults in his life. On a larger scale, he helps organize Let’s Do Lunch, monthly lunches for older members of the LGBTQ community to enjoy each other’s company and learn about services and resources for seniors. He’s also a pastor. Last year, Harry, 71, was ordained at .
“It’s all my parents’ fault,” Harry says, chuckling as he recalled how he was raised to help others. “I blame them for this whole thing.”
Most of the older people Harry cares for have one thing in common: “They all seem to be isolated,” he says. A tenant in a duplex Harry owns needed encouragement and a visit from a social worker to sign up for services such as meal delivery, cleaning and Metro Mobility transportation. Harry calls another man regularly and occasionally stops by his house to go for a walk.
Lunches for LGBTQ Seniors are ‘Truly Caregiving’
Loneliness and isolation is recognized as a serious problem for older adults in the United States, and members of the LGBTQ community are more likely to be isolated. “A lot of people who are LGBTQ have had to fight,” Harry says. “They struggle opening up to people because they think someone will use it against them.”
The need for connection is why Harry sees Let’s Do Lunch as part of his commitment to care for others. “The lunches truly are caregiving,” Harry says “It gets people out that wouldn’t otherwise come out.”
Harry worked to start the lunches with Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly in Minneapolis when he was president of the local chapter of Prime Timers, a social organization for older gay or bisexual men. The Wilder Community Center for Aging in Saint Paul now hosts a second Let’s Do Lunch each month for seniors in the East Metro.
Thanks to Harry’s leadership, some people attend both lunches each month, regardless of which one is closer to them, says Catherine Engstrom, a caregiver consultant at Wilder Caregiver Services. Lunch attendees have also started attending Wilder’s support group for LGBTQ caregivers. “We serve LGBTQ people in all our programs at the Center for Aging, and we are happy that Let’s Do Lunch has helped more seniors become aware of the support that is available,” Catherine says.
Harry just wants to make sure that LGBTQ and other aging Minnesotans have their needs met. “I think we have to make it easier for them to be able to ask for support,” he says.