More and more senior centers catering to the aging lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population are cropping up across the country, and while advocates say there’s a clear need for these sorts of services, there’s concern that an emerging number of LGBT-friendly senior living communities will have difficulty attracting residents.
The needs of older gay adults long have been overshadowed by a focus on younger gay people and a general distaste in the world at large, says Britta Larson, Center on Halstead senior services director.
“Our society doesn’t like to think of any older adults being sexually active or having a sexual identity,” she says. “Now we’re getting to see LGBT adults who have fought hard to come out of the closet and don’t want to move back when they move into a nursing home.”
Older gay adults have issues distinct from those of the population at large, says Catherine Thurston, SAGE’s senior director of programs. ” Older LGBT people are four times more likely to be aging without benefit of having adult children in their lives and adult children are the No. 1 source of unpaid care giving. They’re twice as likely to be aging alone as their heterosexual counterparts.”
Assisted living communities catering to a gay clientele have had a tougher time finding tenants than some other niche communities for seniors, such as those targeting particular faiths or languages, says Jamison Gosselin, spokesman for the Virginia-based Assisted Living Federation of America. “A lot of older Americans haven’t come out of the closet necessarily or told their families,” Gosselin says.
But Gosselin says most mainstream senior living facilities try to be as accepting as possible, from anti-discrimination policies to staff training. “If you built a business on core values of quality of life, choice, diginity, etc., you have a responsibility to maintain those values no matter who the person is—Christian or Muslim or Hindu or straight or gay,” he says.
The full USA Today article lists some senior centers and communities and what they’re doing to serve older LGBT adults, including ones in Chicago and Genesee Valley, N.Y.
Written by Alyssa Gerace