For many Americans, retirement represents a milestone goal, a transition into truly embracing freedom in many ways for the first time. It’s a reward for a lifetime of hard work where we aim to explore passions, choose how to spend each day, and cherish moments with loved ones.
Retirement involves careful and intentional planning, likely over many years or even decades. For members of the LGBTQ+ community, however, the transition can come with additional challenges, especially when considering how a person is taken care of and who they spend their time with.
A recent study found that 90% of LGBTQ+ people fear they would face discrimination in retirement communities if their sexual orientation or gender identity became known. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community and a wealth advisor, I see the anxiety and stress that many face in finding inclusive communities to spend their retirement years.
Through listening and considering my own future, I’ve learned a lot about how LGBTQ+ seniors can identify inclusive communities for the next chapter in their lives. In this article, I want to share some of those lessons so that our seniors and those approaching retirement can find communities where they feel they belong and can enjoy their golden years to the fullest.
Challenges Facing LGBTQ+ Seniors
LGBTQ+ seniors retiring today served as trailblazers, helping secure the rights and freedoms that people like myself now enjoy. As a part of this trailblazing generation, they have likely faced situations in which people didn’t accept them or they had to hide their sexuality. The anxiety of returning to an environment of peers who are less likely to accept them is a concern I hear frequently from those in the LGBTQ+ community. It’s certainly important to consider who a person will be spending time with and to do everything to find people that respect the acceptance they have fought for and deserve.
Adding to the challenge is that many LGBTQ+ seniors may have less family support. As of 2019, only about 15% of same-sex couples had one or more children, compared with about 38% among opposite-sex couples. This consideration obviously depends on individual circumstance, but in the case of less family support, it can mean more reliance on their retirement community.
While these are real challenges facing LGBTQ+ seniors, thankfully, there are a plethora of inclusive senior living options. Identifying them just takes a bit of research.
How to Identify Inclusive Communities
The first step when evaluating a potential retirement community is asking the management team directly about inclusion. In my experience, this is an effective way to screen organizations early and see if they’d be the right fit. Some communities have a written inclusion policy that highlights a commitment to their LGBTQ+ residents, while others might offer a more tangible sense of commitment by supporting LGBTQ+ programming or activities.
Next, one might consider inquiring specifically about the staff and administration. For instance, a person can ask whether the staff has received LGBTQ+ sensitivity training, as well as how the community addresses healthcare and personal needs for their LGBTQ+ residents. This will help make sure they are considering a place that serves all people equally, regardless of their sexuality.
Finally, asking to connect with current LGBTQ+ residents can be a great vetting tool. If there are no LGBTQ+ residents, or if there are LGBTQ+ residents who speak poorly of the community, it’s a sign that it might be best to look elsewhere.
Of course, as with any retirement community, it’s important to tour the site in person, if possible, and meet with management before making any commitments.
While questions can be a great form of direct research, no one is alone in their quest to find an inclusive community. I’ve collected several resources that can be used to make the journey even easier.
SAGE is an organization dedicated to improving the lives of older LGBTQ+ adults. Their website has resources and support for finding inclusive senior housing.
PFLAG is an advocacy group for LGBTQ+ individuals and their families. In addition to other forms of support, their local chapters can offer assistance in finding LGBTQ+-inclusive senior housing.
AARP, which advocates for retired people more generally, offers a dedicated section to the LGBTQ+ community, which includes senior living resources.
LGBTQ+ seniors can face unique challenges when it comes to finding a retirement community. However, by asking the right questions and leveraging the right resources, I’m confident that a person can thrive in the community they find for the next chapter of their life.
As a final tip, remember that small clues can say a lot about the mindset of an organization. Something as simple as having a photograph of a same-sex couple on a company website or featuring inclusive language on forms can be a positive sign; prominent displays of rainbow flags or nondiscriminatory policies maybe even better.
If you’d like to set up a time to speak about navigating long-term care options for LGBTQ+ individuals, I invite you to reach out. I’m excited to help you plan for and create the retirement experience that reflects the amazing person you are and the wonderful life you’ve lived.
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