This article is part of News is Out’s Caring for Community series, which is focused on the challenges and triumphs of giving and receiving care in the LGBTQ+ community. These stories have been created through a strategic partnership.
As more LGBTQ+ people age, decisions about their future remain complicated by a patchwork of local, state and federal laws and regulations. In particular, if an individual needs long-term care in a dedicated community, there can be uncertainty about the community’s understanding and openness to the particular needs of LGBTQ+ older adults. There is no definitive count of the LGBTQ+ 65+ population in the United States, though multiple surveys estimate it between 1.5 and 2.3 million. The Williams Institute, a part of the UCLA School of Law, estimates that includes at least 171,700 transgender seniors.
In June, a Maine assisted living community settled with 79-year-old Marie King over allegations of discrimination because Ms. King is transgender. The settlement requires Adult Family Care Homes of Maine, which runs the Sunrise Assisted Living community where Ms. King was refused admission, to train all staff in LGBTQ+ cultural competency.
On Nov. 17, representatives from AARP, SAGE and the HRC Foundation held a webinar with over 400 registrants entitled “Finding an LGBTQ+ Inclusive Long-Term Care Community.” The webinar provided a host of information from the three organizations and vibrant discussion about how individuals can research and choose the best options so they can age as they choose, where they choose.
Describing the new Long-Term Care Equality Index (LEI), Dan Stewart, Associate Director of the Aging Equality Project at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and Sherrill Wayland, Director of Special Initiatives at SAGE, explained that the LEI is designed to promote foundational non-discrimination protections and foster inclusive environments for both residents and staff of long-term care communities. SAGE and HRC Foundation will release the survey findings in the LEI 2023 report in May 2023. The report will list communities actively working on the inclusion of LGBTQ+ residents and designate leaders in the field. The report will also be accompanied by an online searchable database.
Participants in the webinar, moderated by John-Paul Hayworth, LGBTQ+ Audience Strategy Director at AARP, were able to ask questions directly of Ms. Wayland, Mr. Stewart and Mr. Hayworth, including seeking information about what questions they should be asking of potential residences.
Mr. Stewart recommended three steps. First, rely on your local network for their insights about communities. Second, call or email the communities to ask about their LGBTQ+ inclusion policies and initiatives. Finally, take multiple tours on different days and times to gain insight about the quality of care and the culture of the community.
Making decisions about how you want to age can feel overwhelming, but with resources like the LEI, we are making large strides in ensuring that every community will be welcoming and inclusive.
John-Paul Hayworth is the LGBTQ+ Audience Strategy Director at AARP.