En español | Mark Chekola, 72, came out as gay more than 40 years ago, but the retired philosophy professor knows that many older people in North Dakota and Minnesota still hide their sexual identities.
"Some have never really been open with even their families,” said Chekola, who lives in Moorhead, Minn., across the Red River from Fargo.
But the Red River Rainbow Seniors support and advocacy group, which AARP North Dakota helped organize, is working to end their isolation.
The group formed three years ago, when AARP hosted a listening session for the 50-plus lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community during Fargo-Moorhead Pride Week.
AARP then started holding Lounge & Learn events on topics such as long-term care services, caregiving and legal issues.
Today, Red River Rainbow Seniors has an email list of nearly 150, more than 40 paid members, two Facebook groups, a book club, social hours, dances and movie nights.
Chekola said he has been amazed by the attendance at events.
"They're feeling comfortable enough to socialize with people their age,” he said. “That's been a wonderful thing."
AARP in Your Neighborhood
No cabin fever here. To celebrate the full "wolf" moon in January, AARP New Hampshire members got out in the winter air for a nighttime hike at Massabesic Audubon Center, with a bonfire, cocoa and marshmallows afterward.
It took 23 gallons of paint, 1,700 square feet of plywood, and a dozen trees and planters-plus 65 AARP Iowa volunteers. The result: a demonstration project that temporarily turned one block in the city's East Village into a magnet for walking, biking, shopping and hanging out.