Resident Experience

Creating Inclusive Spaces: Addressing LGBT+ Discrimination in Retirement Communities

February 8, 2024

We recently hosted a presentation, Exploring Discrimination of LGBT+ Residents in Senior Living, where we explored the significant theme of inclusivity. There are 2.7 million older adults in the US, and over 350,000 in Canada, who identify as LGBT+. Let’s explore the key takeaways from the presentation, highlighting the significance of fostering inclusive atmospheres and tackling discrimination within these communities. Read on to uncover key insights that you can apply to your senior living community today! 

Understanding Inclusivity 

The presentation began by prompting listeners to reflect on the inclusivity within their workplaces or communities. Questions were raised about whether everyone feels respected and if instances of bullying or discrimination have been observed. These questions set the stage for a deeper exploration of inclusivity issues.

Background on LGBT+ Rights

The presenter provided a brief historical context, mentioning the Stonewall riots in 1969, which marked a turning point for the LGBT+ rights movement. The discussion emphasized the importance of Pride events in June, commemorating the struggles of the community and fostering unity among allies.

Challenges Faced by LGBT+ Older Adults

A significant portion of the presentation addressed the challenges faced by LGBT+ older adults, including internalized homophobia, fear of discrimination from peers and staff, and the struggles of the silent generation, forced to hide their true selves.

Survey Insights

To gain a better understanding of the current state of inclusivity in retirement communities, the presenter shared insights from a survey of over 100 communities in the Cape Fear region. The survey covered staff training, mission statements, closeted residents, safety concerns, and the promotion of inclusive events.

Key Findings:

  1. Only 42.5% felt their workplace was extremely professional regarding LGBT+ inclusivity.
  2. 81% were aware of their community's mission statement, but only a third were certain it included sexuality and gender expression.
  3. 40% acknowledged the existence of closeted residents, with generational factors contributing to their reluctance.
  4. Safety concerns, both verbal and emotional, were reported by 14 instances, highlighting potential discrimination issues.

Promoting Inclusivity

The presenter highlighted the significance of proving inclusivity through tangible actions. Suggestions included diverse activity programming, inclusive assessments for new residents, creating safe spaces for open discussions, and incorporating educational opportunities.

Future Considerations 

With an estimated 3 million LGBT+ adults aged 50 and over, the need for inclusive practices is set to increase. The webinar emphasized the importance of taking tangible steps now, such as inclusive marketing, staff training, and ongoing programming, to create a genuinely welcoming environment for any member of the community. 

There is a need for a proactive approach to addressing LGBT+ discrimination in retirement communities across North America. We urge readers to evaluate their current practices, implement inclusive measures, and create environments where everyone feels seen, heard, and supported. The time for change is now, and actions speak louder than words.

You can also watch the webinar on demand here!

Katie Stewart

Katie is a member of Welbi’s Customer Experience team! She has a background in communications and recreation and is passionate about older adults, exercise, coffee and people.

Holly Mathias

Holly is a member of Welbi’s Marketing team! She has a background in communications and marketing, and is a compassionate individual who loves team work, story telling, and wellness.

Wendy Riopelle

Wendy is a student in the Honours BA in English program at the University of Ottawa, where she has won numerous awards for her writing.

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