For LGBT elders, recent years have brought a welcome shift in attitudes — and more acceptance. In cities across the country, parades and celebrations marked Pride Month in June, and the festivities are slated to continue throughout the summer.

But lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors also have experienced darker times when they did not feel accepted by the majority of society; for some, that lack of acceptance continues. As the baby boomers age, many LGBT members worry about what they can expect as they move into senior living. In some communities, residents have recounted harassment, bias and bullying.

A recent report estimates the number of LGBT individuals over the age of 50 in the United States at 2.7 million, and that number is expected to significantly increase over the coming decades. As LGBT elders consider their future care, what anxieties and fears are they experiencing, and how can communities ensure welcoming environments for everyone?

Aging Brings out Long-Buried Fears

Older adults who identify as LGBT have experienced incredible advances in social acceptance in their lifetimes. For many, however, aging unearths old fears of discrimination.

In some cases, LGBT individuals do not have extended families they can rely on for care as they age; one study found that LGBT elders were up to four times less likely than straight individuals of the same age to have children. As a result, an increasing number of older LGBT adults fear entering a senior living setting where they might be vulnerable to isolation and lack of acceptance.

Many LGBT elders who do not have children or who are estranged from extended family have developed close relationships with networks of friends, and they hope such relationships will provide assistance for remaining in their own homes as they age. Others hope to enter supportive senior living communities where they can feel comfortable with being themselves.

Creating Supportive Environments

Senior living communities must make it part of their mission to welcome a diverse group of residents, including LGBT elders. Turning mission into action involves educating employees, residents, family members and members of the public to eradicate any lingering bias or discrimination.

Elder Care Alliance and its network of five communities are committed to promoting holistic wellness for all our residents, and we believe that emotional and social well-being play a critical role in healthy aging. We welcome LGBT team members and residents to our communities, and we support ongoing research and innovation in senior living to provide the best possible environments for all residents.

Source: The Villa at San Mateo