29 posts categorized "Housing"

September 20, 2016

SAGE Launches LGBT Age-Friendly Housing Website

Home isn't just where we live — home is our safe place. That's why SAGE has created a first-of-its-kind housing website that empowers LGBT elders to find a welcoming place to call home. We know that housing discrimination is on the rise, and dependable resources are needed more than ever. Now, you can access housing policies and protections, and find out where LGBT age-friendly communities are being built via SAGE's new interactive map and resources.

Be sure to sign up for updates as we share new stories and resources over the coming months, and follow on social media with #SAGEHousing.

July 13, 2016

SAGE and Partners Launching LGBT Elder Housing in NYC

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post Blog on July 11, 2016. Read the original post here.

By Michael Adams

5783cfdd1a00002400dd0aa2Crotona (left) and Ingersoll (right) Senior Residences

Recently, SAGE closed out New York City’s Pride month with the historic announcement that, after many years of effort, we have sealed deals for the Big Apple’s first two LGBT-friendly senior housing developments.  The news, which culminates decades of effort by LGBT elder advocates, was rolled out at a June 30 press conference where SAGE was joined by our partner developers, elected officials and a passionate crowd of elders from Brooklyn and the Bronx, where the two new housing communities will be built.     

The two newly-announced LGBT-welcoming housing developments – Ingersoll Senior Residences in Brooklyn and Crotona Senior Residences in the Bronx ― are a first for New York City.  But they build on similar affordable LGBT elder housing models in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago and Minneapolis. In each of these projects (and others in development across the country), LGBT communities and our allies are responding to the fact that LGBT older people often face unique challenges in finding welcoming and affordable housing. A 2014 report by the Equal Rights Center, with support from SAGE, found that 48% of LGBT older people applying for senior housing as part of a national test were subjected to discrimination.   This high level of discrimination is outrageous and unacceptable; moreover, it makes it extremely difficult for LGBT older people to find appropriate housing as they age.  

As SAGE pointed out when we rolled out our National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative last year, we can’t just build our way out of this crisis.  Because we will never be able to build enough developments like Ingersoll and Crotona, SAGE is also focused on policy reform and training to ensure that every senior housing community in the country is LGBT-friendly.  Nonetheless, building model LGBT-friendly senior housing can play an important role.  Collectively, the two new housing developments will provide 227 affordable apartments and will offer comprehensive, LGBT-culturally competent services to building residents and elders in the surrounding community.

5783d1ba1b00001a00f6d3a6I stand with NYC Councilmember Ritchie Torres and SAGE participants as we announce the new NYC housing developments. Image courtesy NYCHA.

Located in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn, the 145-unit Ingersoll Senior Residences will be the nation’s largest LGBT-welcoming elder housing community to date. Ingersoll is a collaboration of SAGE and BFC Partners, one of New York City’s leading affordable housing developers. BFC, which has developed affordable and market-rate housing in New York City for more than 30 years, will own and manage the property; SAGE is working with BFC on designing an LGBT-friendly environment and will operate a full-fledged LGBT-welcoming senior center on the ground floor.

Crotona Senior Residences is a collaboration of SAGE and HELP USA, a national leader in developing housing and services for vulnerable populations.  The 82-unit Crotona development, which will be jointly owned by HELP USA and SAGE, will feature a unique array of services and opportunities for residents, including roof-top gardening.  The new development is located directly across the street from Crotona Park, a beautiful 127 acre public park that is a vibrant local gathering spot and is known for its multi-faceted senior programming.   

Onsite SAGE Centers at both locations will be modeled after SAGE’s highly successful Innovative Senior Centers located in Chelsea, Harlem, the Bronx, Staten Island (in partnership with the Pride Center of Staten Island), and Brooklyn (in partnership with GRIOT Circle). The SAGE Centers at Ingersoll and Crotona will feature a cyber-café, hot meals program, and a weekly calendar of arts & culture and health & wellness activities that reflect the interests of building residents and community members. 

The Ingersoll and Crotona Senior Residences are being built at a time of growing recognition that the acute housing needs of LGBT elders must be addressed.  In his Pride Month Proclamation last month, President Obama declared that “my Administration is striving to better understand the needs of LGBT adults and to provide affordable, welcoming, and supportive housing to aging LGBT Americans.”  In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 10-Year Housing Plan specifically calls on developers to work with service providers to build LGBT-friendly senior housing.

The Ingersoll and Crotona developments are reflective of SAGE’s broader commitment to advance our work on behalf of LGBT elders through intersectional strategies that recognize that social justice problems are interconnected and that build solutions by connecting the dots.  Thus, we are excited that Ingersoll and Crotona isn’t just providing LGBT-friendly elder housing, but also is intentionally integrated into efforts to address New York City’s larger affordable housing crisis.  The Ingersoll and Crotona residences are part and parcel of Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious initiative to create and preserve 200,000 affordable housing units.  The Ingersoll development is making an additional contribution – proceeds from the project will be used to upgrade existing public housing managed by the New York City Housing Authority.

Projects like these – which simultaneously address the acute housing needs of LGBT older people while helping to advance equity for all city residents struggling to find decent housing – can only come about through strong community partnerships.  As New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye has pointed out, “The partnership between the City, BFC, and SAGE to expand affordable housing opportunities and services at Ingersoll is a powerful example of how we’re creating more connected communities through NextGeneration NYCHA.” In a similar vein, GRIOT Circle Executive Director Jose Albino has declared that “[w]e stand shoulder to shoulder with [SAGE] in ensuring that these groundbreaking LGBTQ affirmative housing opportunities are inclusive and representative of the individuals who live in the communities where they will be located.”

At a time when the social ills plaguing our country are so vividly on display, local community change and development efforts like Ingersoll and Crotona – through their emphasis on collaboration, connected communities, and cross-cutting strategies – offer powerful rays of hope for social progress.  Recognizing that our LGBT elder pioneers have paved the way for so much progress toward justice and equality in recent decades, it seems only appropriate that pioneering LGBT-friendly senior housing might offer some lessons on how to re-connect the dots.

Note: If you’re interested in learning more about these developments and SAGE’s National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative, we invite you to subscribe for regular updates at sageusa.org/nychousing.

July 1, 2016

What Affordable/Accessible Housing Options Exist for Diverse Elders?

Did you miss SAGE's June 30 Housing Press Conference? Watch the Facebook Live Stream recording and see photos from the event on Flickr.

This post originally appeared on the Diverse Elders Coalition blog on June 1, 2016. Read the original post here.

By Angie Boddie

America’s older population is in the midst of unprecedented growth. As the baby boomer generation continues to experience increased longevity, the 50 and over population is projected to increase about 20 percent by 2030 or to about 132 million people. In just 15 years, one in five people will be at least age 65. Ensuring that this demographic continues to experience affordable and accessible housing that offers a sense of community as well as other services and supports that enables them to remain active and productive members of society has taken on a new urgency not only for individuals and their families, but also for the nation as a whole.

For some people, staying in their current homes works. For others, there may come a time when everyone agrees that a different housing option is needed. For those individuals living with chronic conditions and/or disabilities, the availability of housing with supports and services they need determines the quality and cost of long-term care—particularly the portion paid with public funds. Every day, seniors and their caregivers ask questions such as “What if mom or dad can’t go home?” or “What are my housing options?”

Thankfully, today society offers seniors a host of choices and options with regard to alternative housing.  Options include: Age-Restricted Communities; Active-Adult Communities; Senior Apartments; Cohousing; Home with Help (HWH); Assisted-Living Facilities (ALF); Continuing-Care Retirement Communities (CCRC); Board and Care Homes; and Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF).

  • Age-Restricted Communities. Age-Restricted Communities also known as “active adult” or “[age] 55+” communities cater to older adults who have a common preference to live among their peers. Age-Restricted Communities usually offer a mix of this housing type—single-family homes, townhomes, or apartments that are often connected by sidewalks or paths. Age Restricted Communities tend to focus on an active lifestyle, and many communities have well-equipped clubhouses and other amenities, such as tennis courts, gardening, and other community-based activities.
  • Active-Adult Communities. Active-Adult Communities tend to be more suitable for older adults who are healthy, independent, and interested in the social benefits of living among peers. It should be noted that many age-restricted communities don’t allow multigenerational living arrangements, including children and grandchildren.
  • Senior Apartments. Senior Apartments are age-restricted apartments that are typically available to people age 55 and older. While senior apartments are luxury apartments with high price tags, a lot of senior apartments are priced at market rates or below. Some are even built specifically for low-income people. Because the units are constructed for older adults, they are often designed to be accessible and include transportation services. 
  • Cohousing. “Cohousing” designates “a type of ‘intentional neighborhood’ in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of the community.” Residents privately own their homes and do not pool their incomes, but there are common facilities for daily use. Decisions are made cooperatively, rather than by top-down hierarchy or majority-rules voting. Cohousing communities are vibrant places where there are many opportunities for multigenerational interactions and social connections. In elder or senior cohousing communities, the “intentional community” is only for older people. Homes and facilities are designed for aging in place, and residents often share the cost of health aides or an on-site health-care provider.
  • Home with Help (HWH). Home with Help assistance is available to an individual when it has been deemed that it is unsafe for that person to live at home alone.  HWH services are geared towards providing care in the home.  This may include individuals continuing to live in their home environment with 24 hour care.  It also may include in the form of family caregivers, private paid caregivers, transportation services, and meal options such as meals on wheels.  Hiring private caregivers is an out-of pocket expense; therefore one must consider the financial aspect associated with in-home care.
  • Assisted-Living Facility. Assisted-living facilities (ALFs) are housing communities for those individuals who may require minimal assistance with their activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, eating, housekeeping, shopping, and medication management, but they want to live as independently as possible.  Residents living in this facility keep the sense of “home”, by having their own apartment.  Medicare does not cover the cost of assisted-living facilities, but in some states, Medicaid may assist with funding.  
  • Continuing-Care retirement Communities (CCRC). Continuing-Care Retirement Communities are a combination of an assisted-living facility that is connected with an independent living residence and a nursing.  Residents in this setting are able to take advantage of a variety of services, including meals, transportation, housekeeping, laundry, health monitoring, and social activities.  Another advantage about living in a CCRC is that residents will not have to relocate to a new community as their level of care may increase.  Fees often increase as services increase. A CCRC offers many different contract options including, extensive, modified, and fee-for-service. The contracts differ in the amount according to the services offered. To determine which option is best for your loved ones, visit the Continuing Care Accreditation Commission.
  • Board and Care Homes. Board and Care Homes are also known as a residential care facility or group home for older adults.  They are often very small and provide assistance with meals and basic Activities of Daily living (ADL’s).   A board and care home offers seniors a “home” atmosphere.  Often board and care homes are located in single-family homes.  Government funding as well as SSI can sometimes cover the costs of such facilities.
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities. Skilled Nursing Facilities provide care to those who need 24 hour care after suffering from an illness, injury, or functional disability; some nursing homes offer specialty services geared towards specific medical conditions.  Nursing homes provide many skilled services including occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, and respiratory therapy.  Typically, individuals stay for a short period of time to receive services to increase independence to return home.  Skilled nursing facilities are often covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance carries.

Finding the appropriate senior housing can be a difficult and tedious process for everyone. Whenever possible, involving the whole family can help everyone maintain dignity and power of choice. For additional information on senior housing, visit:

The National Caucus and Center on Black Aging, Inc., Housing Management Corporation: www.ncbahmc.com

SeniorResource.com: http://www.seniorresource.com/house.htm

National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information: http://www.longtermcare.gov/LTC/main_Site/index.aspx

Housing and Urban Development: http://www.hud.gov/groups/seniors.cfm

AARP: http://www.aarp.org/families/housing_choices

Continuing Care Accreditation Commission: http://www.carf.org

Medicare: www.medicare.gov

Angie Boddie is the Director of Health Programs at theNational Caucus and Center on Black Aging, Inc. Angie joined NCBA in 2004. She directs all health promotions, advocacy and education programs for NCBA.

May 18, 2016

Annual Report: SAGE Seized Every Opportunity in 2015

SAGEAnnual20152015 was a remarkable year for SAGE and LGBT older people because it presented unique opportunities to advance our agenda—and we seized every last one of them. Indeed, over the past twelve months we have repeatedly demonstrated the remarkable difference we can make for older members of our community when we work together and energetically deploy the full range of tools at our disposal.

A few things made 2015 very special. In June, the Supreme Court decreed that marriage equality for LGBT people was a constitutional right. Then in July, there was the White House Conference on Aging, which takes place once a decade. Ten years ago at the 2005 White House Conference, SAGE made history by becoming the first and only official LGBT delegate to the Conference.

Last year, we took it to a whole new level by blanketing the Conference with the testimony of hundreds of LGBT elders from across the country and forging an overwhelming presence at the big event. Our efforts paid off big time, with the announcement by the U.S. Administration on Aging of an important new commitment to make its work more LGBT-inclusive.

SAGE also flexed our policy advocacy muscle in 2015, convincing the U.S. Department for Housing & Urban Development (HUD) to issue a bold new directive to federally supported senior housing providers across the country to eliminate discrimination against LGBT older people. Of course, putting the right rules in place is only half the battle—bringing those rules to life is where the rubber hits the road. That’s why the powerful advances SAGE engineered last year in its LGBT cultural competency training for aging service providers is so important.

Much of the important progress we made last year was thanks to SAGE’s relentless commitment to collaborate with key partners who can make an important difference for LGBT elders. Of the many partners we worked with in 2015, AARP stands out thanks to a successful pilot program joining SAGE affiliates and AARP local offices in key states across the country. The results far exceeded our expectations, including when we convinced AARP to issue a powerful public statement in support of Houston’s HERO ordinance and in opposition to transphobic fear-mongering. Expect more to come as we keep building on this exciting foundation.

And finally, 2015 was a breakthrough year in SAGE’s efforts to leverage our headquarters and long history in New York City to forge uniquely ambitious LGBT elder services that can inspire similar progress across the nation. SAGE took a huge step in that direction last year when we expanded out of the Chelsea neighborhood to establish full-fledged LGBT senior centers in four new locations, including three of the Big Apple’s most prominent people of color neighborhoods.

There is much more we could talk about, given all of the exciting progress we packed into 2015. Since we can’t cover everything, I hope this annual report shares enough of our highlights so it’s clear why your support for SAGE’s work is so important and why we should be so proud of what we are accomplishing—together—to ensure that every LGBT older person can age with dignity, support and boundless opportunity.

 

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Michael Adams
Chief Executive Officer

 

SAGE's 2015 Annual Report has more on how the organization expanded its programs, enlisted a wide array of new partners, and flexed its advocacy muscle to affect positive change for LGBT elders across the country. View and download SAGE's 2015 Annual Report today.

May 9, 2016

Building LGBT Elder Housing: From Concept to Completion

By Serena Worthington 

Registration is open for our final webinar in a five-part series on LGBT elder housing:

FREE WEBINAR
Building LGBT Elder Housing: From Concept to Completion
June 2, 2016 2:00 pm EST

Register Here

Town Hall Apartments Photo Credit Heartland Housing

Given the diversity of needs and range of financial ability in LGBT elder communities, there is a clear necessity for the continued development of housing options for LGBT elders and a need for both non-profit and for-profit developers to work on housing options. Join this panel of pioneers of LGBT inclusive housing projects as they share their successes and challenges developing a range of models that support elders. LGBT elders don’t want to retreat into the periphery as they age – they want and need to be social and to engage with an intergenerational and diverse community. Hosted by SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders) and Enterprise Community Partners the panel is moderated by Serena Worthington, Director of National Field Initiatives for SAGE and features the following presenters.

Birds of a Feather Community, Pecos, NM
Bonnie McGowan, Founder

John C. Anderson Apartments, Philadelphia, PA
Mark Segal, Publisher, Philadelphia Gay News

Mary's House for Older Adults, Washington DC
Dr. Imani Woody, Founding Director/CEO

Montrose Center Proposed Senior Housing, Houston, TX
Ann Robison, Executive Director and Chris Kerr, Clinical Director 

Los Angeles LGBT Community Center, Los Angeles, CA

Triangle Square
and the proposed Anita May Rosenstein Campus 
Tripp Mills, Deputy Director, Senior Services and Steven Burn, Project Manager

SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders)
Michael Adams, Chief Executive Officer

Town Hall on Halsted, Chicago, IL
Britta Larson, Senior Services Director

At SAGE, we have found that one of the biggest issues facing many LGBT older adults across the country is finding welcoming, safe, affordable housing. Due to higher levels of financial insecurity among LGBT older people and a general lack of affordability in the residential real estate market, many LGBT elders find that they struggle to afford to live in the communities that they have called home for decades. In addition, many face marginalization, discrimination and even harassment in their homes and in long-term care settings from aging professionals, other residents, and sometimes even their own family members.

Please join our panelists to learn about existing and planned LGBT older adult inclusive projects that make important contributions to providing safe and affirming housing and raising visibility about LGBT elder housing needs.  

Building LGBT Elder Housing: From Concept to Completion
June 2, 2016 2:00 pm EST

Register Here

This webinar is the last in a five-part series. View the previous webinars and learn more about our National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative at the links below.

SAGE’s Initiative provides five strategies to expand housing opportunities for LGBT older people.

Serena Worthington is Director of National Field Initiatives at SAGE. Follow Serena on Twitter @SerenaWorthy.

April 28, 2016

Budgeting for Housing, Healthcare and Marriage Shouldn’t Be Scary

By Vera Lukacs

LGBT older adults have unique financial concerns. Not only are they faced with economic uncertainty, but they face discrimination in housing and healthcare, and the prospect of marriage is still new for many. How can LGBT older adults budget better for basic necessities? This question is important, considering that over 25 million older adults (60+) are living in poverty. Contrary to popular belief, planning and budgeting can be a positive experience! It can be tough to think about, but it’s worth doing when you have the chance to prepare and get a step ahead. Not sure where to start? Check out this LGBT Financial Planning Guide.

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Budgeting for healthcare in later years is incredibly important. LGBT older adults have a vast amount of needs that their heterosexual counterparts don’t even think about. But first, a significant factor in this process is LGBT elders need to feel comfortable sharing who they are with their healthcare providers. For transgender people seeking hormone treatments and surgeries or those with HIV, finding a provider can be a scary process. GLMA has a provider directory to help people find LGBT-competent healthcare providers.

LGBT older adults often struggle to find affordable and safe housing. Many don’t have the economic security to invest in long term care facilities, and many are denied housing simply for being who they are. Nearly half of older same-sex couples experienced at least one form of differential treatment when inquiring about housing in a long-term care facility. SAGE launched the National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative to address these issues.

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What does marriage equality mean for LGBT couples? See our new toolkit, Talk Before You Walk: Considerations for LGBT Older Couples Before Getting Married. Getting married is about more than bringing two individuals together. Marriage provides a number of benefits, rights, and protections. With these rights comes the sharing of financial liabilities. To ensure a secured household, talk with your partner before you walk!

Appointing a power of attorney can come in handy in an emergency. In the event that an LGBT older adult is incapacitated or otherwise unable to make sound decisions, a power of attorney can allow a trusted loved one to step in and decide on their behalf. For more information on planning your last wishes, see our blog Financial Literacy: Tips and Tricks for LGBT Elders!

Vera Lukacs is a digital media assistant at SAGE. April is Financial Literacy Month. What do you need to know as an LGBT older adult? Follow the SAGE blog this month for more!

April 15, 2016

Bringing LGBT Elders and Youth Together

By Vera Lukacs

On April 15, students from all over the globe will take a vow of silence to raise awareness of bullying, discrimination and harassment against LGBT youth. GLSEN’s Day of Silence started in 1996 by Maria Pulzetti, a student at the University of Virginia. By 1997, the Day of Silence had spread across the nation to 100 colleges. Today it’s an annual event held around the world, reaching more than 10,000 registered students.

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This student-led protest is a beautiful example of how youth and their allies are banding together to take on the issues facing LGBT youth and young adults. But what about bullying against LGBT elders? This happens all too often, especially in housing and care facilities where LGBT older adults are vulnerable to discrimination and harassment.

LGBT Older Adults in Long-Term Care Facilities: Stories from the Field reports on a survey of 769 individuals taken in 2011. About half of the participants reported 853 instances of abuse by staff at their long-term care facilities. One participant, Sam a 51-year-old LGBT rights activist with experience in long-term care facilities said, "LGBT elders...are forced to remain hidden, and when placed in long-term care facilities, become even further isolated." It is vital that LGBT older adults and their families and friends seek inclusive long-term care facilities.

Bullying in long-term facilities causes so much discomfort that in some cases LGBT older adults are forced back into the closet. According to the 2015 report, From Social Bullying in Schools to Bullying in Senior Housing A New Narrative & Holistic Approach to Maintaining Residents’ Dignity, “Seniors in assisted living, skilled nursing, and memory care are vulnerable to resident-to-resident social bullying in ways that can make their living situations uncomfortable and, in some instances, intolerable. Oftentimes they are unable to remove themselves from situations, and may not even be able to communicate how they feel toward others in their community, causing great anguish.”

Luckily, the country is moving toward providing more inclusive and safe housing for LGBT older adults. Just last month, the Lavender Courtyard, an LGBT intergenerational housing facility, received nearly $3 million from the Sacramento City Council.

Bullying against LGBT elders or youth is never right. Thanks to the Day of Silence, bullying against LGBT youth is addressed in a peaceful, yet powerful way. Let’s take this annual protest and safe and inclusive housing initiatives for the LGBT community as examples of how to support one another.

Vera Lukacs is a digital media assistant at SAGE. Learn more about GLSEN’s Day of Silence and the Lavender Courtyard project online.

April 1, 2016

Serena Worthington on the LGBT Aging Community Crisis

This post originally appeared on the Erickson Resource Group blog on March 28, 2016. Read the original post here.

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We are all aging. The demographics are shifting and resources are lacking to support our seniors. For the LGBT community, resources, and particularly housing needs are virtually non-existent. Due to stigma, discrimination, family dynamics and other issues, this aging community is at risk of having limited support. This week’s guest on Caregivers’ Circle, Serena Worthington from SAGE discusses the complexity of this issue and the efforts being made to rectify it. Listen here.

January 28, 2016

Making Senior Housing Policy LGBT Friendly

SAGE and Enterprise Community Partners presents this introductory Fair Housing Webinar around LGBT issues. An expert panel introduces topics such as: What are the current protections for individuals with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity in housing? What are some real life experiences of LGBT older adults who have faced housing discrimination? What recourse do LGBT older adults currently have if they face discrimination? And what new policy changes and protections may be coming down the pike? Click here for a PDF of all of the slides of the presentation or click below to watch the webinar! The next one is in April, so stay tuned by signing up for housing updates.

Lgbtseniorwebinar

Panelists include:

  • Cheryl Gladstone, Senior Program Director, Enterprise Community Partners
  • Aaron Tax, Director of Federal Government Relations, SAGE
  • Kate Scott, Director of Fair Housing, Equal Rights Center
  • Karen Loewy, Senior Attorney, Lambda Legal
December 21, 2015

LGBT Older Adults Town Hall or the First Time I Visited Florida

I have a confession. Until last week, I had never been to Florida. As a West Coaster for much of my life, Florida was simply too far. My inaugural visit was to Fort Lauderdale and included: eating lots of tacos; having everyone apologize to me because it was 80 degrees and overcast; attending the largest weekly gathering of LGBT older adults in the US; visiting with folks from our oldest affiliate, SAGE of South Florida and our newest, SAGE Tampa Bay; and, the main reason for my visit, serving on a panel at Town Hall meeting focused on LGBT older adults. I was proud to join a distinguished panel and a sizable crowd of LGBT and allied people for this important conversation. Moderated by the knowledgeable and passionate Hannah Willard, Policy and Outreach Coordinator for Equality Florida, the panel included David Jobin, President/Chief Executive Officer, Our Fund; Elizabeth Schwartz, Esq., Principal, Elizabeth F. Schwartz Attorneys and Mediators; and Stephanie Schneider, Esq., Board Certified Elder Law Attorney, Law Office of Stephanie L. Schneider, P.A.

In partnership with AARP Florida, Equality Florida, Our Fund and SAGE, the Town Hall was held at the Pride Center at Equality Park in the Wilton Manors neighborhood. Just north of downtown Fort Lauderdale, Wilton Manors is described by USA today as, “the epicenter of gay life in all of South Florida.” This sounds a little hyperbolic but the census data lines right up. “The 2012 U.S. Census revealed which cities have the highest concentration of same-sex couple households (among cities with a population of 65,000 or above). The surprising frontrunner? Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where same-sex couples make up a whopping 2.8 percent of total households.” Another stat, which will surprise no one, is that 19.1% of Floridans are over 65.

Whenever I’m lucky enough to be around lots and lots of LGBT people, I experience a familiar duality. I’m exhilarated by the density of people like me; I feel safe; I feel a kind of calm and warmth and, simultaneously, I’m saddened by the reality that even in a place like Wilton Manors—where I can enjoy the sight of two older women walking hand-in-hand, gray heads bent towards each other, strolling slowly across a parking lot—even in this epicenter of gay life, LGBT people, including our elders, do not have full equality.

“AARP knows that for too long, LGBT elders have faced challenges as they navigate life that others do not.  In order to best fight for and equip each individual to live their best life as they age, it’s imperative for us to know what issues this community is facing and how we can collaborate to address them.”  Jeff Johnson, State Director, AARP Florida

This concentration of LGBT elders warrants our attention and our action. Stratton Pollitzer, Deputy Director of Equality Florida, clarifies why. “LGBT elders encounter the same challenges as other seniors: declining health, diminished income, ageism, the loss of family and friends. But, as so many know first hand, LGBT elders often must deal with ignorance and discrimination in the services available to them. That makes them among the most invisible, stigmatized, underserved and at-risk populations in the country.” This Town Hall, is the first of two community dialogues in Florida to learn how aging service providers and LGBT organizations in Florida are working to address these vast concerns and to identify what else needs to be done to assure that LGBT older adults in Florida enjoy a high quality of life free from discrimination. The second will be on Tuesday, Feb. 23, at the Metro Wellness Community Center, home of SAGE Tampa Bay.

David highlighted a new South Florida initiative by Our Fund and SAGE called Protecting Our Elders (POE). Working with local LGBT organizations, POE seeks to change the landscape and ensure that any services to or care required by an LGBT elder happens in a welcoming and discrimination-free environment. Stephanie and Elizabeth (who serves on SAGE’s board of directors) addressed legal and financial issues and I shared market research from our recent report, Out & Visible: The Experiences and Attitudes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Older Adults, Ages 45-75. From the quality of the suggestions, observations and questions from the audience, it seems to me that the mix of informed LGBT older adults, engaged organizations from the aging sector like AARP Florida, committed funders like Our Fund, and hard-working LGBT organizations like Equality Florida are exactly what’s needed in this fight. 

By: Serena Worthington, Director of National Field Initiatives
Follow her on Twitter at @SerenaWorthy