June is Pride Month, which is a great time to celebrate diversity and evaluate how we can better support equality for all older adults. We’d like to highlight an important topic: how discrimination affects the LGBTQ population living in senior living settings, and what needs to be done to fix this problem.
Problems in Senior Communities
It’s a tragedy that many LGBTQ older adults feel they must go “back in the closet” in senior living to avoid harassment/discrimination. Some LGBTQ older adults experience mistreatment from facility caregivers on a one-on-one level, and some facilities have cohabitation policies that discriminate against same-sex marriage and relationships. In addition to facing discrimination and mistreatment from facility staff, LGBTQ older adults may also find that other residents are exclusionary, or even abusive. As a result, older adults sometimes feel that their only option is to conceal their sexual orientation and/or gender identity so they can have a place to live and receive the care they need.
This situation can be difficult to face when a person has for decades of lived openly. It is a step in the wrong direction if seniors need to pretend to be siblings or “just friends.” In addition, LGBTQ older adults should not fear elder abuse in the form of emotional or physical harm from staff or other residents.
While these problems are common across the nation, some providers are looking for ways to accommodate all people. Many forward-thinking senior housing communities see the problem and are opening their doors to the LGBTQ community.
Legal Protections for LGBTQ Adults
If you or a loved one is being discriminated against in a senior housing setting, then it is important to know that legal protections are available. LGBTQ older adults need to be aware of their legal rights and tap into the resources and support that is offered. For example, a U.S. District Court recently ruled that senior housing landlords cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation.
Where should you turn for the legal support and advocacy that is needed? SAGE is a national non-profit organization that advocates for LGBTQ older adults. They have a “National LGBT Housing Initiative” designed to tackle the problems LGBTQ seniors are facing when looking for housing options. The goal is to improve and expand senior living options for older adults, giving them a safe place to live without fear of discrimination or harassment. Elder law attorneys experienced in working with senior housing issues are another good resource.
Windward Life Care is here to help you find the right services and support in San Diego County. A member of the San Diego Equality Business Association, Windward is committed to providing compassionate and inclusive services for older and disabled adults in our community.