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.
For seven years now, I’ve had the privilege of working at Ingleside, a not-for-profit organization that provides management and leadership for three Life Plan Communities in the Washington, D.C. area. As the Accreditation and Quality Improvement Manager for Ingleside, one of my driving goals is to ensure that all of Ingleside’s life plan communities continue to be inclusive, welcoming environments that cultivate respect for all people, including those who are part of the LGBTQ+ community.
As a gay man working in the aging services industry myself, this is a worthwhile cause that’s near and dear to my heart. While recent years have certainly seen incredible growth in mainstream acceptance of the gay community and the advancement of legal rights for all people, it’s worth noting that older adults identifying as LGBTQ+ are still often overlooked in contemporary popular culture and in the media we consume.
Well, I’m here to tell you that the LGBTQ+ community is strong, thriving, and is set to continue growing, both on Ingleside’s campuses and across the country. According to Services & Advocacy for LGBTQ+ Elders (SAGE), the oldest and largest organization dedicated to improving the lives of older LGBTQ+ adults, there will be approximately 7 million LGBTQ+ older adults in the United States by 2030. This is just one reason why each Ingleside Life Plan Community is accredited by both SAGE and CARF, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.
One of the most interesting things I’ve observed at Ingleside is an increasing prevalence of LGBTQ+ identifying family members who come to us every day as they arrive to visit the loved ones who live in our communities. More than anything else, our older adult residents want to be near their families, and the DMV region continues to be incredibly LGBTQ+ -friendly. The influence and courage of younger family members who openly identify as LGBTQ+ is slowly but surely eroding the prejudices often endured by the gay community in older generations.
Over time, this influence from the younger generation is leading to a considerable amount of non-LGBTQ+ older adults identifying as gay allies, with some even becoming regular attendees who support our Pride programs.
Some of the interactions I’ve had in my career with LGBTQ+ elders have been truly remarkable. I’ll never forget one gay couple at Ingleside at King Farm in Rockville, Maryland, who had been together for about 50 years by the time I met them. They were one of the most adored couples on campus and it was a big moment when they decided to tie the knot.
They were far from alone in their endeavor to tie the knot. A ceremony was held where they were wed at a local church, facilitated by the community chaplain and several other residents who were certified as reverends. Following their sacred exchanging of vows, they arrived back on the Ingleside campus and were greeted with a glorious reception with many of their fellow residents present and bombarding them with well wishes.
When I look outside of the Ingleside family to the rest of the senior living industry around me, I see that there is still a lot of work to be done as the emphasis on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) has only come to the forefront in the last few years and has been slow to take hold in some parts of the country. In the years to come, organizations like SAGE and CARF will continue to grow in their importance of holding many institutions, including life plan communities, more accountable for fostering environments of acceptance and inclusivity.
Cody Christian is Accreditation and Quality Improvement Manager for Ingleside.