Showing posts with label Retirement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Retirement. Show all posts

May 18, 2018

Bias and Bullying in Retirement Homes for LGBT is Another Mountain to Climb

Even before she began searching for senior housing, Marti Smith had heard the horror stories.
Her gay friends told Smith, a lesbian, that when their partners entered assisted living the partners had to hide their homosexuality to avoid bias and bullying. Even Smith's friends had to play along when they visited. 
“Visitors were told not to act gay or dress gay because of fear of harassment when they left,” said Smith, 73. “That’s very common.”
Earlier this month, an Evanston senior living community, the Merion, became the first in the state to achieve the top lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender competency credential from the nonprofit SAGE, a move that reflects a growing awareness of the challenges facing LGBT elders in senior housing. Both locally and nationally, seniors and advocates are calling for more welcoming and supportive housing. “My assessment is we still have a really, really long way to go,” said Britta Larson, senior services director at Chicago’s Center on Halsted, a comprehensive LGBTQ community center.
“Many organizations that serve seniors across Chicago are religiously affiliated, and so right there, out of the gate, you have a huge barrier to overcome. And even if a particular community or denomination is LGBT-friendly from the outside, an LGBT older adult would probably assume that they’re not welcoming.”
The number of LGBT people in the U.S. ages 50 and older is estimated at 2.7 million and is expected to grow dramatically over the next few decades, according to a 2017 report in The Gerontologist.
In senior living communities, LGBT people live side by side with heterosexuals who came of age when homosexuality was considered a mental illness or even a criminal offense. Bullying and discrimination are common, Larson said.
An outspoken older gay Chicagoan told Larson he had ridden the elevator in his senior housing with another resident who objected to the facility’s gay support group, using a gay slur.
“Well, I’m one of them, so you can shut the hell up,” the gay senior shot back. Larson chuckled when she related that response, but she said that for an LGBT person who is less confident, that kind of hostility could be intimidating.
The Merion got involved in LGBT training as an indirect result of a 2016 lawsuit filed by Marsha Wetzel, now 70, against a Niles senior living facility that she said had failed to halt physical and verbal abuse inflicted against her by other residents because she is a lesbian.
Wetzel, whose case against Glen St. Andrew Living Community is now before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, said in an interview that she’s received 150 letters of support, some from as far away as Australia, Iceland and Sweden.
Among those who took notice was Mark Zullo, the director of sales and marketing at the Merion.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he remembers saying to himself when he saw a TV news report about Wetzel, who was attacked from behind, knocked off her scooter and called derogatory names, according to the lawsuit. Zullo set up staff training through SAGE, and he said the response was positive.
“I think the biggest fear was, am I saying the wrong thing?” he said. Training involved case studies and discussions and addressed practical issues. One lesson learned: Asking a senior about his wife signals that you’re assuming he is heterosexual; it’s better to use a neutral term such as partner.
Smith, the senior who heard horror stories about assisted living, is lucky. She landed one of 79 spots at the Town Hall apartments in Boystown, a gay-friendly senior living complex with a 200-person waiting list.
“I cannot tell you how important it is to be a 73-year-old out, card-carrying lesbian where I live,” she said. “I don’t have to worry. We have two social workers who are funded by the center and the residents, and I don’t have to explain things to them.”
Nara SchoenbergChicago Tribune

March 21, 2014

Fast Growth on Gay Retirement Homes

 Russ Lovaasen

As gay rights advance across the US, there is one group that feels it has long been neglected and isolated - the elderly. But that may now be changing, with a series of retirement housing projects opening to serve the gay community.

Before she moved house, Lucretia Kirby suffered homophobic verbal harassment and menacing notes pushed under her door. On one occasion, she and her partner Sandra were physically beaten and had to seek treatment in hospital.

That all changed in October, when she got a place in Spirit on Lake, an apartment block in Minneapolis marketed to elderly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT/GLBT) people.

"It's more than what I expected it to be. I thought it was just going to be another apartment complex and I was surprised that we've become a community - we know just about everybody by first name," says Kirby, a 58-year-old former teacher and nun who left her convent after falling in love with one of the other sisters. "I just feel blessed."

A number of commercial, market-rate projects succumbed to the financial crisis, but there are now three affordable or low-income housing developments that cater to gay retirees in the US. The first, Triangle Square, opened in Hollywood in 2007, shortly before the recession. Spirit on Lake eventually followed last year, and the John C Anderson apartments in Philadelphia received their first residents in January. Three other blocks are scheduled to open in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago this year and next.
Barbara Satin
This is an interesting time for the GLBT community because they're finally beginning to realise that age is something that presents some challenges”

Barbara Satin
Transgender activist
All have a combination of public and private funding, with subsidised, means-tested rental prices.

"I think it's taking off in a big way," says Gayle Gates of Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing in Los Angeles, which developed Triangle Square, "not only because people are beginning to see the need, especially for seniors, but because the baby-boomer generation is so large and ageing".

Many gay pensioners have a particular need for affordable housing. They usually have less family support than straight people and can find themselves at a financial disadvantage too - few or no spousal benefits, less help from children and possibly cut out from inheritance.

"They came of age in the United States at a time when they were heavily discriminated against," says Serena Worthington of the national non-profit group Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE). "It was illegal to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, you could be condemned by the church from the pulpit, you could be declared mentally ill, you could be fired."

Elderly gay people may still face prejudice living on their own or in other types of retirement housing - some return to the closet when they enter a residential home, fearful of telling other residents and staff about their past.

"If you think about the folks who supported a whole society that was extremely discriminatory, that is the population that is in the nursing homes now," says Worthington, citing the case of a lesbian couple in Oregon who were told they would have to pretend to be sisters if they moved into a retirement home.

The non-profit Equal Rights Center recently did tests across 10 US states and found that in 46% of cases, gay couples reported discrimination when seeking housing.

Spirit on Lake apartments, Minneapolis 

Spirit on Lake apartments, Minneapolis
Spirit on Lake has 46 one and two-bedroom apartments
"I've lived in regular apartment buildings and it's like you don't really want to draw that much attention to yourself," says Scott Quail, another resident at Spirit on Lake. "You want to be gay but you don't want to be overtly gay. So in other apartment buildings you try to inhibit yourself.

While campaigners have focused on issues including gay marriage and rights in the workplace, the elderly LGBT community feel their concerns have often been ignored. That's especially true for gay men, says Quail. "It's a very ageist community. It's better to be young and pretty, and I'm not either."

But this may be changing, says Barbara Satin, a 79-year-old transgender activist who played a key role in launching of Spirit on Lake.

"This is an interesting time for the GLBT community because they're finally beginning to realise that age is something that presents some challenges."

Whereas the those already in their 70s or 80s may have lived in relative isolation, "the baby boomers have lived more openly and they expect to be treated with respect and they will push for it".

Ageing challenges include specific health concerns - HIV and, for the transgender community, taking hormones that may conflict with other medicine.

Satin has been involved in a scheme to train local elderly care providers about gay issues. Fountaingrove Lodge, a high-end LGBT retirement home that opened in California in December, says it is the first with a license to provide continuing care such as dressing and bathing residents.

Gay retirement housing is also spreading beyond the US.
Christer Fallman
Elderly people want social security. They don't want to live alone - the possibility of going into the closet again is very big”
In November, the Regnbagen or Rainbow apartments, Europe's first solely gay retirement housing, opened in Stockholm. In Berlin, 24 flats run by the Gay Counselling Centre opened in 2012, with 60% of places reserved for gay men.

A Spanish foundation is hoping to open 40-50 flats near Madrid later this year, and a British developer is building a gated gay retirement village in southern France.

Christer Fallman, Regnbagen's chairman, says all 27 of his flats are occupied, and about 50 people are on the waiting list.

Though Sweden is widely regarded as progressive over gay rights, he says pensioners can face problems in public elderly care, where they are automatically assumed to be heterosexual.

"Elderly people want social security," he says. "They don't want to live alone - the possibility of going into the closet again is very big. They know that here they are not alone. Somebody always looks after them."

Living in such a tight-knit community is not for everyone. Larry Watson, a 76-year-old who volunteers at a LGBT library on the ground floor of the Spirit on Lake building, says he is quite happy living in a standard apartment building eight blocks away.

Larry Watson
"I'm not lonely, I don't lack for activities, I haven't lost a partner fortunately," he says, adding that as gay rights continue to advance, he's not convinced that the demand for separate housing will be sustained.

"I think the course will remain very positive, and 15 or 20 years from now I'm not sure that GLBT are going to be looking for a niche similar to what's available and is wanted by GLBT people right now, as reflected by this community."

Satin says that in a survey conducted 10 years ago in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul, about half of those who took part said they would want to live in a gay community in their old age.
In the Twin Cities there are an estimated 30-35,000 gay people aged over 65. With 46 apartments at Spirit on Lake, "we're not even scratching the surface", she says.

Under fair housing rules, the affordable or low-income projects that cater for gay people cannot exclude straight people outright, or they would not qualify for federal subsidies.

This can make for an interesting mix. In Triangle Square, 78% of residents are elderly and gay, but 11% are monolingual Russians. At Spirit on Lake, which unlike the other blocks has no minimum age requirement, the result is still more improbable - about three-quarters gay, and the rest Somali immigrants, many of them young.

That had some of the gay residents worried at first, but they say they now appreciate the diversity, and that there has been no friction.

Scott Quail tells a story of when he was in the lift with a man he was dating and they started to kiss.

"The elevator opened and in walked a couple of Somali ladies and they just kind of looked and smiled and that was it. And it felt good because now I feel I don’t have to hide myself from them."

January 1, 2014

Gays and Lesbians Have their First Retirement Community in Europe


The gay community is the newest group to fuel the booming retirement housing market, which already offers developments catering to art enthusiasts, musicians, military veterans, and university alumni.
Baby boomers are the first generation to come of age after the gay rights movements in the 1970s. Further, marriage equality laws recently passed in many countries make many in the LGBT community feel more open and positive about their sexual orientation than previous generations.
Indeed, over the last decade, as attitudes have relaxed and more people live openly gay, there has been a wave of housing projects popping up across the globe to serve the "gay and gray" population. But the idea of building such communities in Europe had not progressed much beyond talk -- until now.
The Villages Group--Rainbow, a 7-hectare gated community of affordable one-level eco-friendly/energy-efficient "village-houses," has been given the green light to commence building. It will be the first “active-living" community for people over 50 from the lesbian and gay community. Nestled in the heart of the Languedoc region of South West France, it will offer concierge services, a hotel, pools, Jacuzzis, a gym, saunas, tennis courts, a restaurant, a bar, and a full activities program.
Danny Silver, Founding Partner of The Villages Group, which specializes in properties for those seeking retirement homes with an active lifestyle, comments:
"Our rural French haven, The Villages Group--Rainbow, offers LGTB individuals over 50 years old the opportunity to live an active life together with like-minded people in France for the first time. It is due to demand from this growing community that we have launched this new Village. Indeed, other European developers have explored the new potential niche market; however one proposal after another has died on the vine. But I am delighted to say that here at The Villages Group--Rainbow, we have the green light to commence construction, and the properties will be ready for occupation by early 2015."
Silver continues, "The great weather, French gastronomy, and picturesque location provide perfect reasons to spend your latter years here across the Channel. Coupled with increasing tolerance towards the gay community and the legalization of gay marriage, The Villages Group--Rainbow offers the perfect opportunity to live out your days with pride."
Attitudes are changing fast in France. In fact, it was only in May of this year that gay marriage was legalized; the first gay couple married in June near the town of Montpellier, the capital of Languedoc-Roussillon -- also known as the "French San Francisco" for its gay-friendly outlook.
For more information about retiring with pride at The Villages Group--Rainbow, call +33 1 4007 8625, email info(at)thevillagesgroup(dot)com or visit .
- See more at:

June 30, 2012

Gay Senior Centers Are Here, In Spain First Retirement Home

Gay Retirement Spain

 A group of friends and acquaintances, most of them getting up in years, sit around a long table, drinking coffee, eating cookies and chatting.
It could be the scene at any senior center — which is exactly what the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley was going for last month when it opened its gay senior center, one of a growing number of such centers opening across the USA .
"We knew there was a need," said Gay Alliance interim Executive Director Anne Wakeman. As the U.S. population ages, "we've got senior programs in every town and this huge shift in our population," she says. "These services are absolutely necessary."
The White House in May convened in Miami a first-ever conference on aging in the gay community. New York City-based SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders), an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults, earlier this year opened the nation's only full-time gay senior center.
And Chicago's gay social service agency Center on Halstead earlier this year unveiled plans to renovate an old police station in Chicago and create the nation's first affordable housing complex for older gay adults. The 79-unit complex, the second such housing project in the nation (the first is in Los Angeles) is due for completion by late 2013.
SAGE estimates the number of gay Americans who are 65 and over at between 1.8 million and 4 million today. That population is expected to range from 2.2 million to 5.8 million by 2030.
The needs of older gay adults long have been overshadowed by a focus on younger gay people and a general distaste in the world at large, says Britta Larson, Center on Halstead senior services director.
"Our society doesn't like to think of any older adults being sexually active or having a sexual identity," she says. "Now we're getting to see LGBT adults who have fought hard to come out of the closet and don't want to move back when they move into a nursing home."
Older gay adults have issues distinct from those of the population at large, says Catherine Thurston, SAGE's senior director of programs. " Older LGBT people are four times more likely to be aging without benefit of having adult children in their lives and adult children are the No. 1 source of unpaid care giving. They're twice as likely to be aging alone as their heterosexual counterparts."
After years of focusing on AIDS-related services, Tulsa-based Oklahomans for Equality recently has made greater efforts to provide programs for gay seniors, says Executive Director Toby Jenkins. It also is reaching out to the region's senior citizen service providers.
"Every week, we try to follow up with one more group," Jenkins says. "We have more nursing homes and home health care providers than we can get to (because) they know this is a target audience and we have a lot of older gay people in Oklahoma. This part of the country is known as a nice retirement area."
Existing social service providers for seniors often don't know how to deal with the gay population, says Scott Fearing, education director for the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley. Along with the new center, the Alliance has been offering training to those service providers.
"We want to break the silence, break the invisibility," Fearing says. "With the aging Baby Boomers — people like myself who came out in 1980 — are going to want to be sure I can come there honest about who I am. You've got people who worked 20, 30 years in their professional capacity out and now testing the waters all over again and no (human resources department) to back them up."
Assisted living communities catering to a gay clientele have had a tougher time finding tenants than some other niche communities for seniors, such as those targeting particular faiths or languages, says Jamison Gosselin, spokesman for the Virginia-based Assisted Living Federation of America. "A lot of older Americans haven't come out of the closet necessarily or told their families," Gosselin says.
But Gosselin says most mainstream senior living facilities try to be as accepting as possible, from anti-discrimination policies to staff training. "If you built a business on core values of quality of life, choice, diginity, etc., you have a responsibility to maintain those values no matter who the person is — Christian or Muslim or Hindu or straight or gay," he says.
Tom Yoki, 67, of Henrietta, N.Y., a recent transplant from Southern California, walked into the Genesee Valley senior center looking for information on gay-friendly Rochester neighborhoods and to make acquaintances.
"It's a birds-of-a-feather kind of thing," Yoki says. "The mainstream senior centers — I don't want to be negative — but I don't think they'd be quite as welcoming."
In Spain
A group of elderly Spanish gay men are rebelling against the homophobia of their generation by setting up what will be the country's first gay and lesbian retirement home.
"Homosexuals who go into homes often also have to go straight back into the closet," said Federico Armenteros, the man behind the scheme. "This will be a place that is open to everyone and where no one will have to hide their sexuality."

November 14, 2011

Retired Gay Men } Another Option

Not too long ago, there was no such thing as a gay retirement community in America. But as the number of retirement facilities which cater specifically to seniors with a common interest, hobby or trait has multiplied, so too have the options for gays and lesbians. There are currently about a dozen seniors-only housing developments that are marketed specifically to gays and lesbians, says Andrew Carle, the founding director of the senior housing administration at George Mason University. That's up from just a few a decade ago. And retirement experts expect the trend to continue. "As the economy and the real estate market improve, we may see more of this," says John Migliaccio, the director of research for the MetLife Mature Market Institute, who has studied the aging gay and lesbian population extensively.
Other types of senior facilities are also beginning to cater more to aging gays and lesbians, including continuing-care developments, affordable retiree housing and community drop-in senior centers. For example, the first gay continuing care retirement community -- a facility that offers independent, assisted living and Alzheimer's care -- for gays and lesbians opened this year in California, and another gay and lesbian senior center is scheduled to open in New York in January 2012. "There are now more options than ever for the aging GLBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community," says Catherine Thurston, the senior director of programs for Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders (SAGE).
Despite the recent growth, retirement options aimed at gays are likely to remain limited, say experts. Many of the large, traditional retirement community developers aren't interested in niche developments, says Migliaccio, and funding for public facilities devoted to the gay and lesbian community is difficult to get -- especially in more conservative areas of the country. The recession hasn't helped much either. RainbowVision Santa Fe, which opened in 2006 as one of the country's first gay and lesbian retirement communities, filed for bankruptcy in June amid financial problems and a fight between management and residents over costs.

Here are some of the newer retirement options for gays and lesbians.
Still, experts say demand for these offerings is growing -- especially with the first baby boomers now hitting retirement age. By some estimates, about two and seven million gays and lesbians will turn 65 over the next two decades. While some of these boomers won't want to retire in primarily gay and lesbian communities, many others will, says Thurston. Some people choose gay-only communities because they want to be around like-minded people. That may be especially true for the one in four gay and lesbian boomers who report "great concern" about discrimination as they get, according to a MetLife Mature Market Institute study.

In 2007, Alice Herman, 76, found Sylvia, her partner of 46 years, on the floor of their Los Angeles apartment unable to get up. At first Medicare covered most of her hospital bills, but the longer Sylvia stayed in the hospital, the more the out-of-pocket costs began to add up. Two years later Sylvia died. "I had only enough money left to afford two months' rent," says Herman. "I was afraid I might have to live in my car with my two cats because I didn't want to burden my friends." Then Herman heard about Triangle Square, a gay and lesbian retirement community for low-income seniors in Hollywood, Calif., where she says Social Security covers her rent and other costs.
The Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing organization (GLEH) built Triangle Square in 2007. The $21.5 million development, funded in part by the City of Los Angeles and the California Housing Finance Agency, has 104 apartments that rent for between $200 and $500 per month for residents who meet certain income and age requirements. As with all the gay retirement spaces, straight people cannot be legally excluded. Plans for similar housing projects are in the works in Chicago and Philadelphia, says GLEH executive director Mark Supper. "The affordable side of this issue is critical," he says. "There are a lot of gay seniors who literally live on Social Security -- that's especially hard in big cities."

Like many straight seniors, older gays and lesbians are also having trouble selling their homes in this difficult economy, making the move to a retirement community all the more difficult. For others, the notion of a specialized retirement community doesn't fit, but they may still want to be part of a community of other gay and lesbian seniors, says Thurston. That's where local community centers come in. The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, which has a dedicated senior program, has been open for about a decade and offers more than 70 programs, including yoga, painting classes and glee club. The program operates through a combination of private, state and federal funds. (The Obama administration gave it a $380,000 grant in 2009 with the promise of more funding for two more years.) The centers also offer some gay and lesbian specific services like referrals to counselors or lawyers for discrimination and gay rights issues.
So far there are only a handful of specifically gay and lesbian community centers throughout the country, but their ranks seem to be growing, experts say. For example, the New York City gay and lesbian senior center will open in January 2012. It is the first full-time municipally funded gay and lesbian senior center, the organization says, and will be open Monday through Friday and some evenings, offering free programs and low-cost meals.

One in five gay and lesbian boomers reports being unsure of who will take care of them if they get sick, according to the MetLife Mature Market Institute study. For this group, continuing care -- a facility that offers both independent, assisted living and sometimes Alzheimer's care -- may have special appeal, say experts. This year, FountainGrove Lodge, the first continuing care facility for gays and lesbians, opened in Santa Rosa, Calif. Nestled on 10 acres, this facility offers a pool, tennis courts and fitness center, as well as some more surprising perks including a pet park, pet care, movie theater, on-site chauffeurs, the option to have home-delivered meals and a "wine cave." But like many continuing care facilities, all those extras don't come cheap: residents pay between about $295,000 and $925,000 to get a home and monthly dues that range from about $2,500 to upwards of $6,100.

For a lot of gay and lesbian seniors, there simply aren't good retirement communities or senior centers in their area of the country. The dozen or so communities tend to be in traditional retirement regions; the "Birds of a Feather" facility, for example, is located near Santa Fe, N.M., and "The Resort on Carefree Boulevard" is in Fort Meyers, Fla. As a result, many gay seniors are taking a do-it-yourself approach to retirement. Thurston says it's not uncommon for gay women to purchase condos or homes with a group of other lesbians. "It's a bunch of entrepreneurial, community-minded women coming together," she says.
Indeed, the co-housing option is often cheaper than a retirement community, she says. Still others have discussed building more formal co-housing senior lesbian arrangements by buying a plot of land together and building multiple homes on it -- though this has yet to get off the ground due to the significant start-up costs, says Joani Blank, a former board member of the Co-Housing Association, a organization devoted to advancing communal housing arrangements, who notes that it also takes a lot of effort to plan and build such a community.

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