Aging gays and lesbians are facing a shortage of retirement living accommodations that don’t just provide a comfortable environment but are also affordable, writes the Washington Post.
The number of Americans aged 50 and older who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT)—currently estimated at about 2 million—is expected to double by 2030, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Multigenerational Health.
Many of those who are older than 65 grew up in an era where homosexuality was viewed as a disorder or a psychiatric condition.
“They came of age and lived through an era when it was particularly dangerous to be out,” Susan Sommer, senior counsel and director of constitutional litigation at Lambda Legal, an LGBT advocacy group, told the Washington Post. “They risked losing employment, losing family, losing friends, and even violence. They became habituated to a closeted existence.”
Despite increased tolerance for LGBT individuals now in their 50s when they came of age, only around half of the boomer generation believe homosexuality should be accepted by society, according to the Pew Research Center.
Only 22% of LGBT aging seniors said they felt comfortable being open about their sexual identity in a nursing home or assisted living setting, according to a 2011 survey by LGBT senior advocacy groups, and many feared discrimination from other residents and from staff. More than four in 10 said they had experienced mistreatment at facilities, says the Washington Post article.
Those factors coincide with many LGBT individuals not having children or close family members or friends to rely on, and the more isolated they are, the more likely they are to “return to the closet,” according to advocates cited in the article.
Additionally, while there are retirement communities that bill themselves as LGBT-friendly, many of them are high-end and unaffordable to the LGBT crowd, who earn less on average than their heterosexual counterparts. This can force consideration of general-population senior living communities.
“The existing senior housing that’s out there has not been welcoming to the LGBT community,” Daniel Reingold, president and CEO of the Hebrew Home in Riverdale, N.Y., told the Washington Post. “If they [advertise being gay-friendly] in their marketing and bring in 10 or 12 people, is the rest of the world going to turn away? They might.”
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Written by Alyssa Gerace