Meet Maggie Hosmer and Tita Kanjanapas.
Tita, a 25-year-old mechanical engineer, can often be found in her spare time visiting Maggie, 73, at her home in a senior housing complex in the Western Addition.
At first glance, they might seem like an unlikely duo—nearly five decades separate them in age, yet the pair are fast friends and call or see each other at least once a week. The two met over a year ago through the Friendly Visitor program run by the nonprofit Openhouse, which pairs younger members of the LGBTQ+ community with older counterparts to foster intergenerational relationships.
“Founded in 1998, Openhouse works to center the voices and experiences of LGBTQ+ older adults by providing opportunities to make social connections and build community,” reads the mission statement on the nonprofit's website.
The Standard recently had the chance to sit down with the pair to discuss the history of their friendship, and why it's an important part of both of their lives.
As it turns out, it wasn’t smooth sailing at first. Maggie had been a part of the program previously but wasn’t quite sure of her new friend when she first heard about Tita.
“I found out how old you were and that you weren't a lesbian, but you were bisexual. And I said, ‘I want a lesbian!’ I wanted somebody just like me,” Maggie said. As Maggie got to know Tita, however, she was fascinated by the insight into the younger generation’s evolving view of sexual expression and relationships.
“You were so interesting, and you had such a fresh view on sexuality! You had three boyfriends at the time, and they all knew about each other,” Maggie said to Tita, prompting laughter from both of them.
The pair first connected during the pandemic, which as Tita learned during her onboarding for the program, had an extra layer of significance for the elderly LGBTQ+ community. For some, the experience of the pandemic can trigger emotional parallels to living through the AIDS epidemic of the '80s.
“That was like the first epidemic I went through,” Maggie said.”I wrote to [my penpal from Openhouse] saying, 'I've been through one epidemic already, and this one isn't going to get me down.'”
“The Covid pandemic and isolation it created not only impacted the physical and mental well-being of our community, but also stirred painful memories and trauma from the HIV epidemic, which so many lived through, and lost friends to,” says Openhouse Executive Director Kathleen M. Sullivan, Ph.D. “As we emerge from the pandemic, the need for regular intergenerational connections is greater than ever.”
Tita also saw the potential friendship as a chance to understand and appreciate the fight for queer rights through the years.
“I’m an immigrant, and I knew that San Francisco was a place where a lot of queer rights movements had happened,” Tita said. “I know that a lot of older people had done a lot for the rights of people like me. I just wanted to meet someone from that generation.”
On top of their weekly phone calls to swap stories, Maggie and Tita enjoy lunches, coffees and walks together—one of their favorite haunts include Izumi Kaiten Sushi in Japantown, where they can scoop up pieces as they sail by on a conveyor belt.
Additionally, on occasional sunny days, the pair can be seen sitting in Maggie’s courtyard together as Tita serenades Maggie with music of her own composition from an electronic keyboard.
Fittingly, one of Maggie’s favorites is a song about falling in love that Tita has been working on since she was 16—Tita states that it's still a work in progress.
Although they may be separated by years and still have a lot to learn about each other’s worlds, they agree on one thing.
“Relationships are the most important things in our life,” Maggie said.
“I think it's very important to have a relationship with people who are different than you,” Tita said to Maggie. “There's so much that I don't know about how to live my life and so much that is really hard. You've really helped me. It just makes sense that there are all these people who are older than you who have gone through the same problems as you, and they just know more. I just wanted to know what people thought, like how people handled things.
Taking a moment to reflect, Tita continued, “She's my friend. She makes me feel loved.”
Jesse Rogala can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org