Housing is a critical issue among the aging community. It is especially critical in the aging Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. LGBT older adults experience discrimination in health and social service delivery, as well as housing. When older LGBT people move into traditional senior housing communities many are forced back into the closet after decades of being “out” about their sexuality. They fear ostracism by other residents and abuse by caregivers. Only 20% of LGBT older adults in long-term care facilities said they were conformable about being open about their sexuality according to a recent report by Justice in Aging.
20% of Older Americans (age 65+) suffer from depression due to isolation and other factors. In a 2011 national LGBT study, more than 50% of the respondents were diagnosed with depression. LGBT older adults may be at a higher risk of depression because they may be estranged from their biological family, they may have lost the support of the LGBT community when they moved into senior housing and they may not have family to provide their care. LGBT older adults are 3 to 4 times less likely to have children. They are twice as likely to be single and living alone.
There are currently 1.5 million LGBT people over 65 living in the U.S. That number is expected to double by 2030. So, what is the answer to meet the housing needs of this population? Nationwide, advocacy groups are working to expand options for LGBT older adults by opening facilities and housing communities that actively reach out to this population. It is imperative that long-term care facilities have policies to not only discourage staff from discrimination, but to actually provide sensitivity and cultural competency training for staff. Facilities for LGBT older adults have opened in Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and elsewhere. Mutual Housing is developing a housing project called Lavender Courtyard in Sacramento’s Midtown. This is a beginning. However, it is not enough. LGBT older adults should be warmly accepted and respected in any housing community or facility that they chose.