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Guide helps LGBTQ elders find safe, accepting housing

A third of LGBTQ seniors fear having to “re-closet” themselves due to living situations.
Longtime resident Fred Hodges, 71, thinks back to the people who have come and gone during his time living at the Palms of Manasota, the first LGBTQ retirement community in the United States, Monday, Nov. 8, 2021 in Palmetto.
Longtime resident Fred Hodges, 71, thinks back to the people who have come and gone during his time living at the Palms of Manasota, the first LGBTQ retirement community in the United States, Monday, Nov. 8, 2021 in Palmetto. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published Dec. 14, 2021

Seniors who are part of the LGBTQ community now have a new tool for finding a safe, affirming long-term care facility.

A new consumer guide from SAGE and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation released this month recommends questions LGBTQ elders and their loved ones should ask — and best practices they should look for — when beginning to search for senior housing.

“One of the concerns we hear most often is, ‘If I need to move into long-term care, how do I know I’m going to be supported and welcome?’ ” said Sherrill Wayland, director of national education initiatives at Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders, better known as SAGE. “This is to help LGBTQ older adults identify what makes a long-term care community inclusive.”

Related: For LGBTQ seniors, finding a house that is a home can be problematic

About half of all lesbian, gay or bisexual couples in the United States have experienced negative treatment when seeking senior housing — and transgender elders report facing discrimination in long-term care at even higher rates.

A third of all LGBTQ elders fear having to conceal their sexual identity — an act colloquially known as having to “re-closet”— when entering a senior care home.

The guide equips LGBTQ seniors to ask staff of long-term care communities questions like:

  • Does the resident nondiscrimination policy prohibit discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity?”
  • Can I share a room or apartment with my same-sex partner?
  • Will I be assigned a room based on my gender, rather than my sex assigned at birth?
  • Will my family of choice — my partner, spouse or friends — be able to visit me?
  • Does the community have programs and facilities that are inclusive of LGBTQ people?

“It’s like test-driving a car, to see if it has all the bells and whistles I want,” said Wayland. “We’re also test-driving communities that we may one day call home.”

Related: Whatever happened to America’s first LGBTQ retirement community?

The report, titled “Finding an LGBTQ+ Inclusive Long-Term Care Community,” is believed to be the first of its kind.

SAGE has also previously developed training and best practices for long-term care communities seeking to be inclusive.

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