Housing Barriers for LGBT Seniors
Housing Barriers for LGBT Seniors
Last month’s U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling regarding same-sex marriage was widely celebrated in LGBT communities around the country.
But the ruling doesn’t instantly change hearts and remove all the barriers that LGBT seniors face, especially when they’re looking for housing.
For one, discrimination still lurks and many LGBT seniors often face a tough time finding welcoming, accessible, and affordable housing.
A 2014 study, Out and Visible: The Experiences and Attitudes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Older Adults, Ages, 45-75, by the New York City-based SAGE, (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders), which focuses on improving the lives of LGBT older adults, offers some insight about LGBT community members’ housing-related desires and challenges. It found that:
- Forty-four percent of LGBT older adults are very or extremely interested in living in an affordable LGBT-friendly housing development at some point in the future.
- One in eight (13%) LGBT adults and one in four (25%) transgender adults say that they have been discriminated against when searching for housing because of their sexual orientations or gender identities, respectively.
Though addressing LGBT housing needs has gotten greater attention and housing options have expanded, the current level of LGBT-friendly housing likely won’t do for the future. After all, the number of LGBT people in the U.S. over the age of 65 is expected to reach about six million by 2030.
That’s according to the “Opening Doors Study: An Investigation of Barriers to Senior Housing for Same-Sex Couples Discrimination against Same-Sex Couples” that was conducted by the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging (www.lgbtagingcenter.org/resources/pdfs/lgbtSeniorHousingreportFINAL.pdf).
One of its conclusions: “As the number of older adults increases, as well as the number of LGBT seniors living openly, many with their spouse or partners, the need for more housing options that allow older LGBT people to live in a safe and comfortable environment becomes increasingly important.”
Still another challenge is finding assisted living and adult communities that are welcoming to LGBT residents. “Diversity Our Strength,” a toolkit (http://www1.toronto.ca/city_of_toronto/longterm_care_homes__services/files/pdf/lgbt_toolkit_2008.pdf)developed by Toronto Long-Term Care Homes and Services offers some rules of thumb to follow when vetting a potential retirement facility.
Here are 7 things to watch for:
- Valuing diversity is reflected in the home’s values statement, and diversity includes sexual orientation and sexual identity.
- An anti-discrimination statement is visibly posted stating that equal care will be provided to all, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, physical ability or attributes, religion, sexual identity and gender identity.
- Policies, guidelines, and practices of the home don’t contain any barriers to LGBT inclusion.
- Evidence of positive signs and symbols displayed throughout the home, such as written, graphic materials, images, artwork and signage that indicate that it’s welcoming to LGBT people. Such signs could include the rainbow flag, images of same-sex couples, and posters, information, and magazines relevant to the local LGBT community.
- Written materials offered to the public that clearly reflect non-discrimination policies and practices and reflect a welcoming environment to LGBT residents. This would include fact sheets, promotional material, and information provided to the public during facility tours.
- Language in written forms and assessments that don’t assume heterosexuality as the norm and instead use terms like partner rather than husband/wife, for example.
- The environment gives a sense of being safe, affirming, and respectful to LGBT residents and their families and friends.
Despite the housing hurdles that face LGBT seniors, the bright side is that there are resources you can tap to get help with LGBT senior housing for yourself or a loved one. Here are links to relevant news stories and housing-related groups.
- Center Link (www.lgbtcenters.org/Centers/find-a-center.aspx): Use the site’s map to locate LGBT Community Centers and member affiliates in the United States and around the world.
- The Equal Rights Center: www.equalrightscenter.org/site/DocServer/LGBT_Senior_Toolkit.pdf?docID=2581
- Movement Advancement Project (MAP), http://lgbtmap.org: See “Improving the Lives of Older LGBT Adults” http://lgbtmap.org/file/improving-the-lives-of-lgbt-older-adults.pdf and look at pages 84-88 for links to organizations that work on LGBT aging issues.
- SAGE: www.sageusa.org
Personal stories of LGBT seniors from both Canada and the U.S. share common themes, one of which is that LGBT seniors wish for housing options that allow them to live safely, comfortably and happily. For many, that wish remains a challenge.
Renovating to Wow Gen Y
If you’re looking at home renovations with an eye toward design and features that will appeal to the next generation of buyers, take a look at “Five Design Attributes Guaranteed to Wow Gen Y.”
The Builder magazine story (www.builderonline.com/design/consumer-trends/five-design-attributes-guaranteed-to-wow-gen-y_o?o=0) may give you some ideas on how to revamp your house and incorporate some of the features that will grab the attention of today’s buyer.
Among the amenities that wow include smart home technology (think Nest thermostats, for instance); green features that save on energy costs (think energy efficient windows); and open spaces and outdoor amenities, such as open kitchens and entertaining spaces inside and seating areas and fire pits outside.