Fearless Aging: How to find welcoming senior living regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity – Shaw Local

Who you are and who you love shouldn’t dictate where you are able to live, but for LGBTQIA+ older adults and seniors, whether a community is friendly has become an often-discussed topic.

It is the responsibility of a community to have a focus on nonoppressive spaces for people with different sexual and gender identities to age in place. When it comes to finding an inclusive community, there are several considerations one must take.

From the moment you walk in the front door, notice if the community is using inclusive language in signage, literature and advertising materials. It’s helpful to note whether they display logos or cultural symbols that reflect tolerance of all individuals.

They also should offer inclusive options for shared spaces such as health care suites and restrooms. This often means that the community understands and caters to the unique needs and care for those whose bodies are different from their gender identity.

Staff training is important as well, so ask if the community educates staff members and health care professionals within their community how to interact with people of different sexual orientations and gender identities, including providing regular in-services and training on cultural competency and sensitivity. Note that staff and residents alike use preferred pronouns and respect how individuals self-identify.

The community should have a confidentiality policy available and share it without reservation. Ask for its nondiscrimination and bullying policy, how to report bullying or harassment, and ensure it is clear cut with guidelines. The activity calendar should feature partner opportunities with LGBTQIA+ organizations, events and programming, both on- and off-site.

It is important to tour the communities of interest. Ask the staff questions about each of these points, as you have the right to be comfortable in your own home.

It also is key to ensure that these communities have the clinical and social service systems necessary in addressing the holistic health of LBGTQIA+ older adults in affirming housing. This means that they are addressing not only the physical needs within the physical structure of the community but also are meeting the cognitive, social and mental health needs of the seniors they serve.

• Jennifer Prell is president of Elderwerks Educational Services, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit offering complimentary information, referrals and guidance to older adults, seniors and their families for senior living, care, support and benefits. Visit elderwerks.org or call 855-462-0100 for personal assistance. Email questions to help@elderwerks.org.

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