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Happily Ever After: Senior Living Options for LGBT Couples

The Baby Boomer generation is changing the face of senior hood in many ways. As this generation enters retirement, they have a consideration that wasn’t necessarily acknowledged or spoken about in previous generations: retiring together as an LGBT couple in a senior living community.
It wasn’t that long ago that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors would have been turned away from or made to feel unwelcome in “traditional” senior living communities due to policy or attitudes by the staff or management. As society’s attitudes shift about the LGBT community, senior living communities are recognizing a new demand – and seniors are finding that they have more choices than ever before. 
“There are many options popping up for LGBT seniors as more and more communities adopt inclusive policies,” says Beth Covault, Executive Director of Azpira Place® of Breton, a senior living community in Kentwood, MI.

“Besides expressly LGBT-friendly communities popping up, communities like Azpira Place of Breton are positioning themselves as a welcoming place for LGBT seniors to live their golden years. Our greater community of Grand Rapids has been named one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in Michigan, and that attitude extends to us here at our Assisted Living and Memory Support community.”
Recognizing the Need
According to a 2017 survey, more than 2.7 million seniors over the age of 50 identify as LGBT. By 2030, this number is expected to reach more than 7 million – showing that the demand for affordable housing that is LGBT-welcoming is, indeed, growing. 
“This generation is the first generation that was open and outspoken about their sexuality, which helped move the needle of gay rights in this country, but also caused many to become estranged from their family,” says Beth. Prejudice during these seminal years and beyond may have meant fewer work opportunities for these individuals, resulting in less savings and resources in their retirement. They may also have less access to government benefits and programs (such as Social Security survivor’s benefits).
SAGECare (Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders) reports that LGBT seniors are twice as likely as heterosexuals to live alone and be single, and are four times less likely to have children. 48 percent of these older adults have faced rental housing discrimination in some form. Of those seniors who do enter senior housing, nearly 80 percent go back into the closet when they do so, according to the study “Improving the Lives of LGBT Older Adults.” 
Finding affordable, welcoming senior housing and communities are, therefore becoming more and more necessary. 
Starting the Wave
In 1994, the first openly gay-friendly retirement community – the neighborhood of The Palms of Manasota in Palmetto, Florida – was launched. This quickly became the best-known LGBT retirement community in the United States. In 2006, RainbowVision opened in Santa Fe, New Mexico., and quickly became known as a mixed, diverse and inclusive community (75 percent of residents are LGBT, the rest are straight and the community is positioned as a multigenerational place to live). 
Today, there are gay-friendly senior retirement communities in every state across the country, although there are some known “hotspots” for gay retirement. Most of these cities are concentrated in Florida or California, but Atlanta (GA), Dallas and Austin (TX), Salt Lake City (UT), Aurora (CO) and many other cities have vibrant and thriving gay communities. 
Finding the Right Senior Living Community for You
Beth says that, while relocating to a known “hotspot” is an excellent choice, it’s important to remember that just about any city can offer LGBT-friendly amenities. “Just because a community is located in this city or that does not necessarily mean it will be the right fit for you and your partner,” she says. “It’s important to look at every community as an individual location, ask the right questions and see what other opportunities are available for you in the greater community.” 
Whether you are considering a “traditional” senior living community or wish to focus on those that brand themselves as LGBT-friendly, here are some questions to ask to determine what the environment is like and assess if it would be a good fit for you and your partner. 
How many openly LGBT individuals live here? One of the best ways to see – literally – if the community is open is to find out how many of the residents identify as LGBT. If there’s a large number, that’s a pretty good sign that it’s a welcoming place. Even if the percentage of LGBT couples is small, it’s significant. You may wish to ask staff if you can speak to some of these residents and find out how they enjoy living at the community. 
If there are LGBT residents, have there ever been any issues with regards to the staff or other residents? This is a question you can ask both administration and residents. Finding out how the administration dealt with any issues will give you a clearer picture of the business side of things, while hearing the resident’s stories can give you insider knowledge about life there.
What are your cohabitation policies, and are there any restrictions? Since many same-sex couples are not married, this might pose a problem when moving into a senior living community depending on their policy. Ask specific questions related to your individual situation (for example, what if one of the partners is significantly younger than the other? Will that pose a problem?). 
Has your community received SAGE training? SAGE training is a cultural competency training program that has been designed for care providers of older adults. Developed by SAGECare in 2010, communities can select from training courses that can be done in-person or online and receive certifications (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum) based on the type of training and how many of the employees have taken it. 
Another great source of information is, obviously, the Internet. Check out what real residents and family members are saying to get real feedback about culture and life at the community. You can also talk to friends, family members, doctors and other trusted professionals if they have any recommendations.
“A senior living community is, at its heart, a community, which means that it’s important to find a place where you feel welcomed and at home,” says Beth. “Azpira Place of Breton prides itself on being welcoming and inviting to all individuals, and we sincerely hope that LGBT seniors will feel that when they step through the doors of our community.”
If you have any questions about inclusion at our Assisted Living and Memory Support community, 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.