By Susan K. Thomas
© 2015 Diversity Rules Magazine. All Rights Reserved.
Susan K. Thomas is a lecturer in English at the University of Kansas where she spreads the good gay word through LGBT literature and first year composition courses. She is currently researching the impact of HIV/AIDS on the LGBT community in Kansas. She has two cats, Hannah and Hamlet (Ham).
Q. My father recently lost his partner of twenty-two years, and is thinking about moving into a retirement facility. My husband and I are a bit concerned because we want him to be in a safe space where he can have a supportive community while still being out. What suggestions do you have when looking at retirement homes for senior LGBT people? JoAnn
A. JoAnn, I’m that you are helping your dad investigate his options. Of course, ideally you would find an LGBT senior facility in your father’s area so that he can stay in touch with his friends and family while living in a supportive community. The unfortunate truth is that there aren’t as many of these places as we’d like. If there is no LGBT retirement community in his area, he might consider relocating to city that does.
If your father decides to stay in the area where he currently resides, there are a number of things he may consider. First of all, he might move into a smaller residence where there isn’t as much work for him. He might find that a condominium or a townhouse offers him the freedom to come and go as he chooses without the hassle of maintaining the external property. There are many places that are only one level, too, if stairs are an issue or may become so in the future.
Your dad might also move into an assisted living apartment complex. These facilities offer residents their own apartment space, but have staff who can come by as needed to check in on the residents. Once again, this allows your father to be independent, but can also be reassuring for him and your family that he has all of his needs met. There are often social events for residents, whether playing cards, having coffee, crafting, or participating in music events.
Of course, when choosing a facility for an LGBT senior, there are questions that must be asked and homework that should be completed. To begin with, investigate if the facility has a history of complaints or issues. Also, attempt to learn if these complaints are at all related to a resident’s sexual or gender identity. There are other issues of discrimination as well.
Even though LGBT people have made tremendous strides forward, there are still continued setbacks. In a 2013 Department of Housing and Urban Development study found that in 50 metropolitan markets, heterosexual couples were favored by landlords over gay and lesbian couples. LGBT advocates report that discrimination increases for the queer elderly. People choosing to live out may face harassment in facilities or apartment complexes from other residents and even staff. Research and advocacy for the elderly then becomes key to keep our LGBT elders from being forced to slip back into the closet.
The best place to start is with the internet. Sit down with your father and begin to discuss options in the area. You can then begin researching together to investigate possibilities. Make sure that you clearly understand your father’s interests and desires for his future living arrangements. Also make sure that you understand his concerns. Once you are aware of his needs and concerns, you can begin to investigate options. Contact local LGBT organizations and community centers for information. They can counsel you on options for your father. They might be able to suggest friendly rental agencies or individual landlords who are LGBT friendly.
There are a number of online resources that you might investigate. Some of the most well-known are: The Na
tional Resource Center for LGBT Aging (http://www.lgbtagingcenter.org/) and SAGE: Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders (https://www.sageusa.org/). The Center for Positive Aging (http://www.centerforpositiveaging.org/lgbt.html) has a reseource page specific to LGBT elders and their concerns. Remember that it is your father’s and your right to ask questions so that he may find a living opportunity that works best for him. Don’t be afraid to advocate for him. I look forward to an update in the future.
“inQUEERies” is an interactive column. Readers are encouraged to submit questions for Susan to answer! Contact Susan directly at: [email protected]
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