The number of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender adults over 65 currently exceeds an estimated 3 million and is expected to double by 2030. Still, there are relatively few senior living facilities that cater to or even welcome this group of seniors, and space in existing facilities falls far below potential demand.
Special challenges for LGBT seniors
Traditional senior living facilities are not always particularly welcoming to gay and lesbian seniors. Though many may not be openly hostile to them, they may force couples to occupy separate units since they aren’t married, or they may be staffed with caregivers who either lack training or sympathy for members of the LGBT community. Resident seniors in each community may also set an unfriendly atmosphere.
Aging in a senior living facility, however, may be the best option for many LGBT seniors. Gay and lesbian seniors often lack children or spouses — LGBT seniors are two times more likely to be single — meaning that they must rely on friends, neighbors, or strangers for assistance. At times, the pressure of seeking help can drive seniors back into the closet, especially if they need to seek refuge in a facility unsympathetic or even unfriendly to LGBT seniors.
Financial resources can also be harder to come by for many LGBT seniors. Due to federal marriage legislation, lesbian and gay seniors lack access to partners’ social security benefits and must pay estate taxes — even if they are legally married.
LGBT-Friendly Elder Care Facilities
A growing number of elder care facilities and senior communities are making efforts to welcome LGBT seniors. One such community is Rose Villa in Portland, Oregon, which attempts to provide a welcoming environment to all.
Staff there receives special diversity training, and the community has a tradition of welcoming all new members, regardless of gender or orientation. Some gay and lesbian seniors seek out such communities for their diversity, preferring them to ones specifically catering to LGBT seniors.
Dedicated LGBT Elder Care Communities
Currently, there are more than 20 senior living facilities with an LGBT focus in development throughout the U.S. Though interest in such communities is growing, several high-profile, privately owned facilities have run into a number of obstacles — the most fundamental of which is that they have been affected by the same housing market downturn that has affected housing of all kinds.
They’ve also had problems with poor management and funding. Two high-profile communities — RainbowVista in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the Palms of Manasota in Tampa, Florida, both faced bankruptcy only a few years after opening.
As alluded to earlier, LGBT couples, also lack access to each other’s financial resources — which means that many of these communities may simply be too expensive.
Lower-cost housing projects, such as Triangle Square Hollywood in Los Angeles, have been more successful. Typically, these are set up as a public-private partnerships or as non-profit ventures. Though several cities are building such communities, they are far from meeting current or future demand.
Resources for LGBT Senior Living