By William E. Kelly | Senior Matters
There are various local, state and national laws, statutes and guidelines across these United States of America specific to senior housing and care.
The challenge is monitoring and achieving strict adherence to them.
Identifying LGBTQ affirming and supportive senior housing, services, programs and care is easy to identify in word but far more onerous to identify in practice.
The object of this article is to provide a logical set of questions by which LGBTQ seniors, their loved ones and supporters can assess for themselves just how welcoming any senior community provider, their employees and residents might actually be to an openly LGBTQ senior or senior couple.
The answers to four very direct questions will go a very long way to telling you all you need to know as to whether the community, care, service or program you are considering is truly and actively LGBTQ affirming and supportive.
Ask to see their written policies regarding cultural sensitivity training and requirements for all employees and the service and program providers they use. Even if those policies exist, you need to probe further to assess just how seriously they are taken and enforced.
Inquire of the administrators if they have any sense as to how many, if any, openly LGBTQ seniors and senior couples are living in their community. Often the response is that they can’t ask that question of residents so they can’t estimate a number but are certain they must have LGBTQ residents. Be cautious of that answer, as it is quite likely that this is a sure sign any LGBTQ residents they might have are closeted.
Are there are any visible signs of LGBTQ acceptance and affirmation, i.e. have the administrators witnessed the kind of affirming displays of public affection, hand holding or a kissing on the lips being exchanged between two same-sex residents? Have conversations between openly LGBTQ residents about their youth as openly gay people been heard? Are the photos of residents displayed show openly same-sex husbands, wives or significant others visible in their residents. Do they show photos of their lives at openly LGBTQ events with friends and spouses?
Probe for activities that indicate there are events that specifically address and recognize the celebration of LGBT Pride and events that are LGBTQ related or important to a satisfying open LGBTQ life. Ideally, ask to visit with random community members to find out if there is a high degree of homophobia among heterosexual staff or residents.
If the replies to any of these inquires are questionable or negative, think carefully as to how happy you could be living a full and open life in that community as a proud and open LGBTQ person.
The September Senior Matters column will explore the laws, ordinances, statutes and guidelines within the state of California, San Diego City and San Diego County that protect the rights of LGBTQ seniors, as well as the national protections.
It will seek to include existing and proposed legal protections being looked into and a look at counter measures to reduce, reverse or otherwise legally deny LGBTQ seniors the care and acceptance granted their heterosexual counterparts.
In addition, once the San Diego LGBT Community Center has finalized its draft of a plan for services and programs that it will provide residents of the LGBTQ senior affirming North Park Apartments scheduled for occupancy near the end of December, a future article will discuss that plan and steps to be taken.
—Bill Kelly is a longtime local activist who currently focuses on LGBT senior issues and moderates the Caring for our LGBT Seniors in San Diego Facebook page. Access to the group is free to all seniors, their advocates, families, friends and caregivers. Reach Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.