It’s not just about marriage equality anymore. Progress for the LGBT community is usually measured by two criteria: public opinion polls about gay acceptance in the general population; and, the number of jurisdictions which recognize our right to be treated equally when it comes to marriage laws and benefits.
Traditionally “old and gay” meant “old and invisible.” Or worse. Many providers of services for people over 60 were cruel and even punishing to clients who were perceived as LGBT. Years ago, the New York Timesreported on the mistreatment, neglect, and denial of services from retirement communities, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes (“Fearing Isolation in Old Age, Gay Generation Seeks Haven,” October 21, 1999).
In the past, gay partners were not allowed to share an apartment in senior residences. In many instances, according to the Times article, gay people were totally isolated in these facilities because they were shunned and shamed by other residents and patients. Staff members, too, might refuse to provide care and proper assistance to “those kind of people.” But there are now pockets of great change and our future is a lot brighter.
Marcy Adelman, Ph.D., a lesbian activist in San Francisco, started Openhouse in 1998 with the long-term goal of developing housing and social support services for LGBT seniors. Its long-awaited project is under construction at 55 Laguna Street and the first phase should be ready for residents at the end of 2015.
Last week, Openhouse and two other progressive retirement communities were cited by the Commonwealth Club as forerunners in creating safe, secure, caring, and accepting environments for gay people as they age.
This is a big deal that the respected Commonwealth Club is giving public attention to the needs and civil rights of LGBT seniors. [...]