Many cultures celebrate the aging process and idolize their elders. In western cultures; however, that is not the case. Youth and vitality is worshipped, while the elders are made to feel disrespected and worthless. Aging is typically viewed in a negative light; therefore, the elderly being to feel as though they have no value and do not want to be a burden. Compound those same concerns, but as an LGBTQ+ elder, this brings an entirely new set of concerns. To be accepted in retirement communities, do LGBTQ elders need to go back in the closet?
Stonewall Riots were a pivotal point in the LGBTQ+ movement for equality. Almost 50 years later, those activists are now reaching retirement age. Many have survived years of living on their own, within the LGBTQ+ communities as they were and continue to be unaccepted by their families. Do to their lifestyles and limited support systems, many have not held steady jobs or a career to save and provide for a comfortable retirement. They do not have family to lean on for support, whether emotional or financial, as other straight seniors may have available to them.
Many LGBTQ+ elders have given a lifetime of support to those in need, especially youth abandoned by their families, homeless, and critically ill such as hospice. Now with limited funds, where is their support to find affordable living arrangements? SAGE USA, a housing initiative for LGBTQ+ elders, reports that 48% same sex couples have experienced housing discrimination. They predict that there will be seven million LGBTQ+ elders by 2030, most of whom will need assisted living. In 2015, SAGE USA launched a multi-year housing initiative, which provides affordable housing in a comfortable, respectful and caring environment.
Discrimination and harassment have been the norm for these elders. They should not fear seeking home or medical care at this stage in their lives. They should live in a caring and supportive environment, just as any other elder would hope to do.
While there are currently only 12 states with LGBTQ+ friendly community living options for the elderly; there is one housing complex in North Hollywood that brings together the vulnerable youth and elderly. The Anita May Rosenstein Campus will provide interactive opportunities for the groups to foster mentorships and develop friendships. This is a tremendous opportunity for youth to learn more about the history of the LBGTQ+ community and movement, which is all too common with all youth today. Stories do not get passed down from one generation to another without a stable support system.
This is an area which touches close to home for me, as I grew up in an unstable and highly dysfunctional alcoholic home. Family history was not shared. I am very intentional in making sure my children know as much as I do about our family history, but even more so about their own parents. It is important for one to understand where they come from, so that they can make better decisions about their own future.
To continue supporting my bi-sexual son, it is important for me to understand all the challenges the LBGTQ+ experience and what I can actively do to openly demonstrate my support and engagement. Attending PFLAG meetings behind closed doors is fine from an education perspective, but I need to become more active in the community.
I reflect on what I, too, could have done to better support my son throughout high school and college. The biggest step for me has been to acknowledge my biases and possibly forego the idea of having one big happy family with lots of grandchildren. I may not have a large family, but I will do my best to ensure our family is happy, not matter what it may look like.