Creating Inclusive Spaces for LGBTQ Seniors

June is Pride Month, a time when LGBTQ communities and their allies celebrate with Pride parades and festivals and raise awareness about the continued need to work to achieve equal rights in our society.   Although more young LGBTQ people are supported, recognized, and understood by their communities, many older LGBTQ adults feel isolated and alone, especially in assisted living housing where many LGBTQ seniors hide their orientation to avoid harassment and bullying. 

According to the National Council on Aging, senior centers have an opportunity to better support LGBTQ older adults, helping to provide care assistance and social engagement.  Seniors in the LGBTQ community are less likely to have children and may be estranged from their families, leaving many elders without the help and connection seniors need to thrive. 

Senior centers have the opportunity to become more inclusive of the LGBTQ community and with staff training, help to create programs that promote awareness and acceptance.  Senior centers may need to review and update policies, intake forms, and partner with local LGBTQ organizations to ensure that all members of the elder community are included and served.  

Older adults in the LGBTQ community have a higher rate of suicide than their heterosexual, cisgender peers, and are disproportionately affected by financial, food, and housing insecurities.  With less family support than the average senior, many LGBTQ elders have greater needs in older age.  Experience with violence and discrimination often leads to a distrust of the mental health and medical systems in the LGBTQ community – staff and volunteers working with LGBTQ individuals should receive training to learn inclusive language and strategies to create a safe and supportive environment for all seniors in the community.  

To learn more and find resources in your community and online, follow this link to the Sage website, a National Resource Center on LGBTQ+ Aging.