There may be no greater source of anxiety, depression or fear in today's gay society than that associated with ageing. Many gay men who survived the AIDS epidemic are now facing retirement age with no visible examples of what this chapter in their life may bring. The needs of older gay men are only slowly becoming recognised here in the UK with organisations like Pimpernel and now a book has just been published by an American gay man, John Lockhart, which is described as a practical road-map to ageing for gay men.
While images of gay men abound in the media, they seldom include men over 40, let alone men over 65. But these men are often living as exciting and passionate lives as anything seen on Queer as Folk.

John Lockhart's book provides a series of memorable snapshots of ageing gay American men in interviews crossing all regional, financial, and ethnic boundaries. The men reflect on a broad spectrum of issues: sex, spirituality, self-image, finances, health, and retirement living as he's been telling us.

The Gay Man's Guide To Growning Older
John Lockhart has been a Gay Games participant since 1986 and has won the Gold Medal in the Marathon.
OutUK : Where did you get the idea to write this book?
John : In the spring of 1999 I visited my friend, Bob, whom I had not seen in nearly 20 years. He lives in Arizona and was 82 then. As I, 67 drove across the desert between San Diego and Arizona, I thought, 'I sure would like know what to expect between now and then if I live to Bob's age.' So, I asked Bob if we could talk about ageing, he said, "OK," and we sat around his dining room table and explored issues. From that dining room table chat, later research, and interviews with 4l men I have written a book that is topical, practical, and straightforward. Incidentally, that's a three-year gestation -from idea in head to book in hand!

OutUK : What did you talk about to these 41 guys?
John : Everything! Using an interview questionnaire, and I revised it as I went through the interviews based on experience, we explored issues of money, work, leisure and volunteering, health, where the men live, families, spirituality, and yes, for sure, relationships and sex. Death, too, but the book's tone is upbeat. The focus is on the future. Overall, "The Gay Man's Guide To Growing Older," is a snapshot of who the men are right now.

OutUK : What's your background? What do you bring to the enterprise?
John : I'm the real thing, a 70 year-old gay man, born in the depths of the Great Depression, too young for World War II but just right for the Korean War, went to college thanks to the GI bill, worked as a lobbyist for public education for nearly 40 years, and "I'm Still Here," to cite the Sondheim song! "The Gay Man's Guide To Growing Older" is neither technical nor academic. It's a book for those who want to know about the ageing of gay men based on the experience of those who are there.

OutUK : So your book isn't just for gay people.
John : I don't think so. The book is relevant to all families. After all, just about every gay man comes from a traditional family. And nearly half of the men in "The Gay Man's Guide To Growing Older" were married at some point in their lives, three of them twice. The book is a resource for professionals and to those working in agencies and companies that provide goods and services to our country's aging population. Remember, one of every five Americans is over 65, our largest single population. And baby-boomers are turning 50 at the rate of one every 7.5 seconds. Translate that to gay men: 1.5 to 2 million in the age group 50-65 between now and 2014.

OutUK : Who are the men in "The Gay Man's Guide To Growing Older," anyway?
John : They're partnered and single, they live in 13 states and the District of Columbia and their average age is 72 years 10 months. But just as important as where the men live now is where they lived their earlier lives. While 83 percent of the men are retired, 37 percent continue to work full or part time jobs. The men are emblematic of the American melting pot with most tracing their ancestry to Britain and Europe. Two are African-American, one is multiracial, one is Latino and two are part Native American. Two are drag queens and one is a leather daddy. Of the five naturalized U.S. citizens, one made a dramatic escape from behind the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War. Almost to a man all 41 feel good about life now and look forward to the future.

OutUK : What do the men say their top issues are as they age?
John : Number one is maintaining their health. Having enough money to live on-and most feel they do-is next. Several men say finding a partner is important. Those in long term relationship; the longest is 55 years, treasure their partner and bless their good luck.

OutUK : Do gay men over 65 have sex?
John : Yes and how! Read the book to find out.

OutUK : What's "the good, the bad and the ugly" of gay men's growing older?
John : The good, especially for those who worked all their lives and don't now, is having time to savour experiences, relax and have the means to make it all happen. Their number one piece of advice to young gay men: 'Save your money for when you are older; you'll need it!' Relationships present and past are treasured. The bad might be characterized as stuff 'over and done with,' problems resolved. But unresolved health issues for some are a major concern. Happily, there's not a lot of the ugly. Instead, there's life satisfaction, being at peace with the present and a holding a positive outlook to the future.

OutUK : On the back cover of "The Gay Man's Guide To Growing Older," there's a photo of you running. Are you an athlete?
John : Well, yes, I guess so. I began running 30-some years ago, I've run 33 marathons, and I never ran one until I was over 50. In 1981 I was a founding member of Front Runners San Diego and I run regularly with the club. I am thrilled to have participated in the Gay Games since 1986 and to have won the Gold medal in my age division in the marathon, half marathon and 10K. I look forward to the Games in Sydney in November 2002. I'm registered for the 5K and the Half-Marathon. I love hiking and Alpine skiing. This summer I'm going to England for a six-day 31 villages hike of 11-12 miles a day in the Cotswolds, the rolling hills in central England. Besides being fun, the hike will be training for my 2003 goal: a week's walking safari in East Africa followed by climbing the continent's highest mountain, 19,341 ft Mt. Kilimanjaro. I'm told the mountain guides constantly tell climbers "po-ley, the Swahili word meaning "slowly," and that's how I hope to reach the summit!

OutUK : A final question: "The Gay Man's Guide To Growing Older," is your first book. Was writing it a hard job, did you think you would ever finish it, and how about awaiting a visit from the muse?
John : None of the above! I loved meeting and interviewing the 41 men in the book, learning their experiences, plans and aspirations, researching issues and seeing the book take shape before my eyes on the computer screen! I'm organized and disciplined-I adhered to the 'writer's' morning schedule, and stuck to it, with time out for skiing and other breaks agreed to by a wonderful editor Scott Brassart and never worried about a visit from the muse. Instead, I sought and found the voices of the 41 men, and they're loud and clear in "The Gay Man's Guide To Growing Older."

The Gay Man's Guide To Grown Older by John Lockhart is published by Alyson Books and can be obtained in the UK at 11.99 through Amazon.

 

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