Imagine growing up during a time when you weren’t free to be yourself. You had to hide who you loved, or hide your gender identity, for fear of discrimination or even incarceration. Of the more than 39 million people in the U.S. who are aged 65 years or older, 2.4 million identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). While younger generations have known a world that is more open and affirming, many LGBT older adults lived or continue to live a secret or closeted life, fearing repercussions for being authentic and true to themselves.
Each June, the LGBT community in the U.S. celebrates Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall riots that occurred in June 1969. The Stonewall riots were a pivotal moment in the fight for LGBT rights.
While there have been advancements toward acceptance, many organizations still have a long way to go to embrace, advocate, and support LGBT adults.
Some Key Challenges Facing LGBT Older Adults
Mental and physical health, personal safety, and economic security, while concerns for many people, can be even more stressful for LGBT older adults who don’t have children or family members who advocate for them. After facing a lifetime of stressors associated with being a marginalized group, LGBT older adults may be more vulnerable to neglect or mistreatment. Social isolation also remains a concern.
When surveyed, nine out of 10 LGBT people feared discrimination in care settings if providers knew their sexual orientation or gender identity. While legislation like the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status, there currently is no federal law that consistently protects LGBT individuals from housing discrimination.
Creating Safer Spaces for Senior Living and Healthcare Communities
But there is help, and hope, to change the way LGBT older adults live and receive care. Instead of living in fear or forgoing healthcare, SAGEUSA, a national advocacy and services organization, has developed resources, partnerships, and training to improve aging for all LGBT older adults. By 2030, SAGE estimates there will be about 7 million LGBT older adults in the U.S., with a combined purchasing power of over $830 billion. It’s imperative that housing, healthcare organizations, business owners, and employees are trained to understand and meet their needs.
SAGECare Training and Certification Engages Teams and Organizations
SAGECare training helps service providers create more LGBT-welcoming organizations while improving the care they provide. In turn, SAGECare credentials help LGBT people find those trained providers. Organizations including the Alzheimer’s Association have embraced SAGECare training to create a more welcoming environment for LGBT older adults.
Through staff development and training courses, SAGECare equips teams with the tools to better relate to LGBT older adults by telling real stories about real people. SAGECare offers four levels of training.
- Bronze Level — 25% of employees complete one hour of LGBT aging training
- Silver Level — 40% of employees complete one hour of LGBT aging training and 40% of executives and administrators complete four hours of LGBT aging training
- Gold Level — 60% of employees complete one hour of LGBT aging training and 60% of executives and administrators complete four hours of LGBT aging training
- Platinum Level — 80% of employees complete one hour of LGBT aging training and 80% of executives and administrators complete four hours of LGBT aging training
It all comes down to creating a more welcoming space for LGBT older adults where they feel comfortable talking about their needs. SAGECare training is open to a variety of healthcare organizations, including:
- Skilled nursing facilities
- Assisted living communities
- Hospice and palliative care
- Long-term care communities
- Home health providers
- Anyone providing services to older adults
Friendship Village Columbus holds the platinum level, the highest status available. Our Executive Director, Lisa Burkhart, had this to say on the importance of SAGECare, “Friendship Village Columbus has always had a core value: we are welcoming to all seniors. We understand that LGBT seniors have a fear of discrimination in Health Care Facilities. In the spirit of our values, we feel it is important to invest time and resources into SAGECare. This is a training and competency that helps caregivers to understand what the LGBT seniors might be feeling and to have the culture of the community be more welcoming to all seniors. It also provides the LGBT seniors sense of comfort knowing we maintain this certification.”
In fact, FVC is the only senior living community in our area that holds this certification, so when we say we are a village of friends, we truly mean it.