Monday, September 25, 2017

Do Nursing Homes Force LGBTs Back Into the Closet?

Christopher Ross and his partner Allan Keech at their home in Durham. They will soon be living in the Village Hearth Cohousing community, to be built next year. It is a place where members of the LGBT community will be welcome among their peers and allies. Casey Toth

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From the Herald Sun by Cliff Bellamy

DURHAM, NC--Christopher Ross and Allan Keech, both 68, are longtime partners who are approaching a time in their lives when, as Ross puts it, “it’s important to know our neighbors.” 
They face the normal vulnerabilities of aging – such as health challenges – but as members of the LGBT community, they also must cope with a legacy of discrimination that often makes finding a community of elders difficult for them. 
“Having looked at other retirement venues ... generally speaking, they have not had the education to deal with or cope with LGBT people,” Keech said. “A lot of gay people tend to go back in the closet when they go into these facilities,” because they fear being ostracized, he said.
Ross and Keech are by no means alone. “We know people who live in nursing homes and facilities who are afraid to let people know they are LGBT,” said Les Geller of SAGE Raleigh, [NC] a program of the LGBT Center of Raleigh. “It’s very common,” Geller said. 
Aging members of the LGBT community “are more likely to live alone and with thinner support networks,” according to Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), a New York advocacy organization. They also face higher disability rates, higher poverty rates, and mental health concerns related to a lifetime of discrimination,” the SAGE website states. 
SAGE continues: “Location-related barriers, coupled with stigma and discrimination, can make it difficult for LGBT older people in many parts of the country to find the LGBT-friendly community supports they need to age successfully and avoid social isolation.” The organization estimates that 3 million LGBT people in the United States are age 55 and older. 
The UNC School of Social Work in 2013 did a needs assessment of the aging LGBT community in the Triangle. Among the findings from that survey: 46 percent of participants reported they had experienced harassment or worse because of their sexual orientation. Sixty-two percent of respondents wanted more health services geared to LGBT adults, with 80 percent expressing interest in LGBT retirement homes.
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