For any senior — regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation — the ability to age in surroundings that are both welcoming and comforting gives them a greater sense of well-being. For many LGBT seniors, it is only now that they are finding acceptance within their larger, local communities. Even so, many of these seniors have found that they still face discrimination and experience a lack of options for senior care. However, that’s starting to change with new senior care facilities springing up in larger cities, devoted to LGBT seniors and their needs.
LGBT Senior Living Facility
While there haven’t been many, if any, senior living facilities that focus on the LGBT community, several new facilities are now popping up throughout the United States, including the nonprofit group Mary’s House for Older Adults in Washington D.C.
The group’s goal is to open a residence for openly-gay and lesbian seniors. While zoning issues are slowing down the project, once the hurdles have been jumped, the facility will provide fifteen units for seniors.
The group feels this project is important, as many gay seniors face neglect and even abuse in traditional care facilities. In fact, a 2014 study conducted by the Equal Rights Center discovered that 50% of same-sex couples dealt with adverse treatment when looking for senior housing.
In addition, the study showed that LGBT seniors are more likely to live in poverty and deal with greater physical and mental health issues than heterosexual seniors. Isolation tends to also be an issue for many seniors in this group, and it’s particularly poignant in rural areas for LGBT retirees.
Owing to these findings and concerns within their community, this is one of the reasons why efforts have been mobilized to create LGBT elder initiatives in several major cities to facilitate senior housing for LGBT persons. You can currently find these initiatives in many large cities across the country, such as Boston, Los Angeles, and New York City.
Additional Issues for the Senior LGBT Community
Beyond discrimination, some in the LGBT community have found that senior assisted living facilities are simply not equipped to care for transgender people. This is due to the fact that many transgender people have not transitioned to their declared sex. This is in large part due to the cost of the surgery.
For aging seniors living in a care facility, they may need assistance with bathing and dressing from caregivers or as part of a medical examination. While a transgender person may declare themselves to be female or male, once they disrobe, their physical anatomy would suggest otherwise.
It is this very issue that leads to lack of quality healthcare in this community. A survey in 2011 showed that 28% of those surveyed had been harassed in a medical setting. This harassment included rough treatment or ridicule.
Moreover, 19% were also denied care completely by their doctor, and 50% had to educate their medical providers on how to care for a transgender person.
How Healthcare Facilities Can Improve Care for the LGBT Community
In one large metropolitan city, new guidelines for caregivers treating LGBT individuals have been created by the SAGE Metro Detroit group. These guidelines will help caregivers understand the concerns and needs of LGBT people and help ensure they receive the proper support they need.
These guidelines include:
- Upgrading non-discrimination policies to include gender identity and sexual orientation
- Changing procedures so staff can collect gender identity and sexual orientation information easier
- Training for staff, vendors, and call centers on LGBT issues
With changing attitudes towards LGBT people by society at large, positive changes for senior LGBT individuals are coming, and it is in the realm of healthcare where those changes are taking the lead.
Are you or do you know an LGBT senior? What was your experience — positive or negative — in terms of the level of care you’ve received as you’ve aged? We’d love for you to share your experiences with us in the comments below.