There are approximately 51 million people aged 65 and older in the United States, and approximately 3 million of them identify as LGBTQ. Over their lives, they’ve seen a seismic shift in lifestyle, society and more. Now they’re entering a new era and stage of life: seniorhood. More specifically, senior living.
“The senior living industry is and will be experiencing a surge of LGBTQ seniors who are looking for senior living communities where they will be comfortable and happy,” says Michael Nitz, Director of Community Relations at Azpira Place® of Breton. “It’s true that any retirement community can be LGBTQ-friendly, and my guess is that many are. However, in order to attract this demographic, it will be important to highlight aspects of life at the community that we might not have thought about before.”
According to a survey from the Equal Rights Center, almost half of aging same-sex couples have experienced some sort of housing discrimination. For individuals who lived through the Stonewall years, they may feel anxious or nervous about looking for senior living options.
“If you have an LGBTQ senior in your life, you can be an advocate for helping them find a community where they will feel accepted, happy and comfortable,” says Michael. “Your senior loved one may not feel comfortable asking questions or soliciting information for their specific needs, which is where you – as a younger person – can assist. Fortunately, there are many, many communities today – including Azpira Place of Breton – that pride themselves on being LGBTQ friendly. In order to find a place that’s right for your loved one, you’ll need to look at all the information through a specific lens that will help you determine the right fit.”
The Rise of LGBTQ Senior Living Communities
These days, senior living communities are as varied and unique as the people who live there. You can already find senior living communities that are based around a certain lifestyle or income level, so it should come as no surprise that there are LGBTQ-focused retirement communities these days as well. According to the Lesbian and Gay Aging Issues Network (LGAIN), a subsidiary of the American Society on Aging, no less than 28 LGBT retirement communities are in various stages of planning and development.
However, if your LGBTQ loved one is looking for a senior living community, you don’t necessarily need to search specifically for a “gay” community. “Any retirement community can and should be LGBT-friendly,” says Michael. “In order to determine what might work for you or a loved one, you’ll want to look for verbal, visual and physical clues that suggest same-sex couples are valued and accepted in the community.”
Here are some suggestions to help LGBTQ seniors and their loved ones find communities that will be a good fit:
Look at their marketing materials. Take a look at the community’s website, direct mail pieces, social media presence and everything else. Check out the pictures they highlight on the site and study the language they use. Are there pictures of same-sex couples in their marketing materials? Do they mention anything specifically on their site about being LGBTQ friendly? You may be able to get a good feel for the community without even having to step foot through the doors.
Look in areas with a high LGBTQ population. Does your loved one live in an area with a large number of LGBTQ citizens? If so, you may want to look at senior living communities in that area. This can be a good solution if your loved one wants to move to a new location – however, if your loved one doesn’t want to move away from where they currently live, you may want to ask friends and acquaintances for their advice.
Ask specifically about LGBTQ individuals in the community. It’s possible that you may need to talk to a staff member or leadership representative at the community to get specific answers. One of the most direct questions (and best barometers of culture) you can ask is: “how many LGBTQ individuals do you have in your community?” If the representative can answer accurately and eloquently, that’s a good sign that your loved one won’t feel out of place there. If the community can’t really speak to it, however, it’s a sign that there may not be a large LGBTQ presence.
Talk to older LGBTQ individuals to get their impressions/ideas/recommendations. Thanks to the Internet, it’s incredibly easy to find information on just about anything. From Reddit to Nextdoor to a ton of other sites, there are many easy ways to get in touch with others and ask questions about ... well, everything. You may wish to do your own research and get in touch with senior LGBTQ individuals online to get some firsthand accounts as well as some advice for finding good communities for your loved one.
Start your research on SAGECare. SAGECare is an organization that provides cultural competency training specifically for recognizing the needs of LGBTQ elders. Many communities have incorporated SAGE training into their overall training, and you can easily search providers on the SAGECare website.
Look into cohabitation policies. It may be surprising, but there are some communities that have very strict rules about cohabitation. Some communities may not allow same-sex partners to room together, while others don’t allow anyone who’s not married to share a room (same-sex or not). Understanding policies such as this will give you an idea of how “open” a place is and what sort of lifestyle they can accommodate.
“All of us want to be treated with dignity and compassion, no matter how old we are or what our sexual orientation is,” says Michael. “This is true throughout our entire lives, and as our LGBTQ population ages, this will become a much more discussed topic for senior living communities and providers. Azpira Place of Breton is proud to be welcoming and inclusive of LGBTQ individuals and we strive to create an environment that’s accepting, comfortable and accommodating to everyone and anyone.”
If you have any questions about finding LGBTQ-friendly senior living options, or to learn more about life at Azpira Place® of Breton, please contact us at 616-259-5526.
Live Well. Age Well. Be Well.
At Azpira Place® of Breton, located in Kentwood, MI, we’re redefining how seniors Live Well. Age Well. Be Well. Our lifestyle is far from “typical.” Our vibrant and engaging Assisted Living and uplifting A Knew Day® Memory Support inspires our residents to live passionately with purpose, every single day.
Each day, our residents find the person-centered support and care they need, all while enjoying an inspiring and engaging lifestyle. The need for care or support doesn’t stop our residents from wanting to be active, involved or engaged, and it especially doesn’t keep them from obtaining the lifestyle they desire and deserve. With a variety of spacious private apartment floor plans, constant access to good company, exciting services and amenities, delicious dining experiences and life-enriching programming, residents never have to worry about having nothing to do. There’s always something waiting for them just outside their door! And best yet, if they desire space and privacy, there’s also plenty of room for that, too! Spend time outdoors in the sunshine, read a favorite book in the library, take your pet for a walk or simply relax in your private apartment, the possibilities are endless!
At Azpira Place of Breton, residents never have to worry about maintenance, housekeeping or the tasks of homeownership. We created our community so our residents could have the peace of mind of care while focusing on what really matters, what makes them who they are. With engaging VIVA!SM programming by Pathway to Living®, residents can spend their newfound time learning something new, enjoying an old pastime, taking up a new hobby, starting their own classes and clubs or focusing on their health with our wellness programming. Experience the lifestyle you deserve and discover the key to what helps Azpira Place of Breton residents Live Well. Age Well. Be Well.
To learn more or schedule a personal visit, call us at 616-259-5526.