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February 26, 2014

Edie Windsor: One of the LGBT Elders Being Honored by Jewish Home Lifecare

Today's guest post is from Deirdre Downes, Corporate Director of Social Work Initiatives at Jewish Home Lifecare (JHL). JHL received the Aging Services Leadership Award at the 2013 SAGE Awards and will be honoring Edie Windsor next week.

SAGE Gala & Awards 2010 138When LGBT trailblazer Edie Windsor is honored at Jewish Home Lifecare's "Eight Over Eighty" gala on March 5, it will be a thrilling evening and the latest reminder of Jewish Home’s embrace of the LGBT community.

The 165-year-old nonprofit provider of eldercare services has been working hard to become a place where LGBT elders can live openly and proudly, knowing that they will be treated with complete respect at all times.

The issue is critical. A 2011 survey by the National Senior Citizens Law Center revealed that fewer than 25% of LGBT older adults felt they could be open about their identities with the staff of their long-term care facilities.

Things are very different at Jewish Home Lifecare.

SAGE, which honored Jewish Home with its Aging Services Leadership Award in October, is partnering with the organization on a multi-year, institution-wide training program. The goal is to make sure every staff member understands and is sensitive to the needs and concerns of LGBT residents.

That Jewish Home's "cultural competency" is already in a good place is clear from its plans for a new residence that will open in 2018. The residence is being developed as a GREEN HOUSE® facility, meaning that the focus, in design and operation, will be on dignity and autonomy for all residents in all things. Green House facilities operate as collections of small, nurturing households (apartments), each with individual bedrooms/baths clustered around a shared living/dining space. Among the 22 households in the new facility will be an all-LGBT apartment that LGBT adults can opt for if they wish – the first time this option is being offered in a NYC skilled nursing facility.

Long overlooked, aging LGBT adults face distinct challenges. Most live alone, they are less likely to have partners or adult children to care for them and advocate on their behalf, and they often face discrimination in health insurance, medical care, social services, and housing. Unlike married heterosexual couples, LGBT elders living in nursing homes do not usually have the right to stay in the same room.

We are proud to be changing all that.

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