Author Dave Singleton doesn't want one more older LGBT adult to face rejection and discrimination at work or home. But rejection and discrimination are still much too prevalent for many LGBT seniors in need of assisted living. Finding Pride and Home: A Look at Housing for Older LGBT Adults illustrates the growing need for LGBT housing options. Read the original article here.
Moving to an assisted living home should never mean stepping back into a closet.
That seems obvious to those of us living out and proud lives in post-Stonewall Riots America. But fears of rejection and of being ostracized are ever-present realities for many seniors in -- or considering moving to -- shared senior living communities.
One Man's Fear
I saw the fear firsthand when I volunteered at a senior living community in Washington, D.C., a few years ago. Steven was 71 then, with round John Denver glasses, longish silver hair, and an agile mind, but he was dealing with the aftermath of two strokes, which left him unable to walk and in a wheelchair. I said hello and, after a few minutes of small talk, he told me he was gay and uncomfortable in what he thought was a homophobic environment.
"I lived the last 25 years of my life as an openly gay man in Dupont Circle," he said. "Then I came here this year because there was nowhere else to go, and I'm scared to be myself. Gay people are either invisible to, or unwanted by, the people here. So I stay quiet."
I asked the management if they specifically trained the staff to support LGBT residents, and the director nodded in somber admission of the problem. "We're working on it," she said.
The Rise of LGBT Senior Housing Options: A Clear Need
She's not the only one "working on it."
LGBT senior housing options have gained steam in the last decade, led by the rise of older LGBT baby boomers.
"I get calls from LGBT seniors who ask, 'Where can I go where I know I will be safe and treated fairly?" says Chris McLellan, writer and coordinator of Senior Services for SunServe Social Servicesin Broward County, Florida, which serves the LGBT-dense population of Fort Lauderdale.
Of course, this forward-thinking movement to create LGBT-friendly retirement communities, with built-in acceptance and a supportive environment, makes sense. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force estimates 3 million LGBT elders live in the United States, and that number will double by 2030.
"There is a real need for this housing," Michael Adams, executive director of SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders), told the New York Times recently. The need isn't just based on numbers. He was commenting on the results of a recent study in which the Equal Rights Center in Washington enlisted testers in ten states to pose as either gay or straight couples and make phone calls to senior living facilities. In almost half of the cases, the same-sex couples faced discrimination from housing agents, who didn't mention the vacant units presented to straight couples.
Once you're actually living in a home, it's often the little things that are troubling. "For example, someone sits down at dinner at a typical home and asks you on the spot about your wife and kids," says Steve Krege, COO of Northstar Senior Living, which manages the LGBT-focused Stonewall Gardens in Palm Springs, California, set to open in September 2014. "Do I tell the truth or not? Will they think differently of me? You don't want to put someone in that situation, especially when the majority of 70- to 80-year-old residents may still feel the pull of the closet."