Guide helps LGBTQ elders find safe, accepting housing

Seniors who are part of the LGBTQ community now have a new tool for finding a safe, affirming long-term care facility.

A new consumer guide from SAGE and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation released this month recommends questions LGBTQ elders and their loved ones should ask — and best practices they should look for — when beginning to search for senior housing.

“One of the concerns we hear most often is, ‘If I need to move into long-term care, how do I know I’m going to be supported and welcome?’ ” said Sherrill Wayland, director of national education initiatives at Services & Advocacy for LGBTQ+ Elders, better known as SAGE. “This is to help LGBTQ older adults identify what makes a long-term care community inclusive.”

About half of all lesbian, gay or bisexual couples in the United States have experienced negative treatment when seeking senior housing — and transgender elders report facing discrimination in long-term care at even higher rates.

A third of all LGBTQ elders fear having to conceal their sexual identity — an act colloquially known as having to “re-closet”— when entering a senior care home.

The guide equips LGBTQ seniors to ask staff of long-term care communities questions like:

  • Does the resident nondiscrimination policy prohibit discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity?”
  • Can I share a room or apartment with my same-sex partner?
  • Will I be assigned a room based on my gender, rather than my sex assigned at birth?
  • Will my family of choice — my partner, spouse or friends — be able to visit me?
  • Does the community have programs and facilities that are inclusive of LGBTQ people?

“It’s like test-driving a car, to see if it has all the bells and whistles I want,” said Wayland. “We’re also test-driving communities that we may one day call home.”

The report, titled “Finding an LGBTQ+ Inclusive Long-Term Care Community,” is believed to be the first of its kind.

SAGE has also previously developed training and best practices for long-term care communities seeking to be inclusive.

This article was originally published in Tampa Bay Times on December 14, 2021.