Finding senior housing that is affordable and dignified is hard enough. But for LGBT seniors, securing housing may mean going back in the closet. The fear of discrimination is so hard-felt that many LGBT seniors hide their orientation when entering a long-term care facility. In a recent study, nearly 90% of LGBT seniors predicted that staff members would discriminate against them.
LGBT advocates are working hard to shed light on this problem and champion for LGBT-friendly housing practices. Luckily, their efforts have sparked some positive change in the senior housing market.
While there’s still a long way to go, new LGBT-friendly practices are starting to bring a new dawn for LGBT seniors in their golden years. Let’s look at some of the most promising housing trends for LGBT seniors today.
1. LGBT-friendly housing is becoming the norm, not the exception.
An increasing number of senior housing options – whether residential facilities, assisted living or nursing homes – are offering LGBT-friendly services. What does this mean in practice? At its core, this housing respects LGBT rights, understands LGBT-specific challenges and provides empathetic care.
It doesn’t sound revolutionary, yet 48 percent of LGBT couples experience adverse treatment when seeking senior housing. When facilities specifically name their commitment to LGBT-friendly housing and have implemented non-discriminatory practices, it’s a big step towards creating a safe space for LGBT seniors.
2. Cultural competency is becoming a required buzzword for LGBT senior housing.
Another key aspect of LGBT-friendly care facilities is staff treatment. It’s not uncommon for LGBT seniors to suffer discrimination or microaggression from housing staff, care providers or other residents.
Unfair treatment can range from health staff refusing to accept a same-sex partner’s medical power of attorney, to verbally abusing seniors who receive same-sex partner visits, to not using an individual’s preferred name/pronoun.
To combat discriminatory attitudes in senior housing, providers are undergoing LGBT-specific staff training to improve cultural competency. The idea is to educate and train staff in order to cultivate care that’s informed and empathetic. Specifically, SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) offers LGBT-specific training to boost cultural competency across the board.
3. LGBT-friendly housing is encouraging rich social lives to prevent senior isolation.
LGBT seniors face unique challenges, including housing discrimination, health care access and financial instability. In addition, they’re more likely to feel socially isolated, which can have serious health repercussions.
60% of LGBT seniors report feeling “a lack of companionship.” Past social factors may have contributed to this sense of isolation, such as being estranged from family members, not being able to adopt kids or get married.
LGBT-friendly housing is working to offer robust social activities in order to keep up physical and mental health among residents. These may include:
- Enriching social events related to exercise, art, books, languages, nature, music, dancing, trivia, etc.
- A safe and supportive community for dating.
- LGBT-friendly family visitation.
The idea behind these efforts is to strengthen ties with family and friends, and avoid the negative impacts of social isolation.
4. LGBT-friendly housing is guaranteeing non-discrimination for on-site health services.
LGBT seniors are also skeptical of receiving fair treatment in health services – and for good reason! Surveys show that LGBT seniors suffer discrimination and lack of access compared to their heterosexual peers.
LGBT-discrimination in health care also impacts access. About 20 percent of LGBT people avoid medical care out of fear of discrimination alone. That means that many seniors aren’t getting the regular care they need out of fear.
With this context in mind, LGBT-friendly housing is working to guarantee that any care providers – whether doctors, nurses, physical therapists, caretakers or others – are treating LGBT seniors with the equality they deserve by law.
At the same time, 2019 updates to the Fair and Equal Housing Act add protective layers for LGBT seniors to receive fair housing. This federal law, in addition to social pressure, has spurred positive practices in LGBT-friendly care facilities.
At the end of the day, LGBT seniors still face great housing discrimination today. However, with the help of advocacy work, it’s promising to see how some senior housing providers are positively adapting to LGBT needs and creating safer and fairer spaces than ever before.