Affordable & LGBT-Friendly Senior Living in Short Supply
|Photo courtesy of SAGE|
WASHINGTON -- As the baby boomer generation retires and ages, LGBTQ seniors are facing a shortage of affordable and 'safe' retirement living accommodations.
In a recent study by the University of Washington’s Institute for Multigenerational Health, 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.
For many LGBTQ seniors whom are older than age 65, their growing up in an era where homosexuality was viewed as a disorder or a psychiatric condition, creates a dynamic reported the Washington Post, where experts note as they get older, many feel less comfortable standing up for themselves, particularly if they are not wealthy, and they are increasingly vulnerable to being pushed back into the closet.
“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, said.
“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.
Those factors coincide with many LGBT individuals not having children or close family members or friends to rely on, and they in turn become more isolated.
While there are retirement communities that bill themselves as LGBT-friendly, many of them are high-end and are not affordable to the LGBT seniors who earn less on average in retirement than their heterosexual counterparts.
“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., said.
“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.”