As a senior, there are many important qualities that you need to pay attention to when searching for a senior living community to call your home, such as the availability of the necessary care options, up-to-date technology, the physical atmosphere, and the types of activities and enrichment opportunities offered. One of the most important qualities, however, may be a welcoming environment. This is especially true for LGBTQ+ seniors. You want to find a place where you will feel safe, included, and celebrated for your authentic self. Fortunately, LGBTQ+ seniors have many more options today than they did in the past, but it is important to research potential communities to discover the one that will be the best fit for you.
Supporting, Respecting and Welcoming LGBTQ+ Seniors
When a senior living community takes the time to understand the unique needs of each resident, steps can be taken to ensure that they feel safe, accepted, included, and respected in their senior community. It may sound basic, but the act of understanding and acknowledging how someone wants to be addressed can start the relationship on the right foot, and let you know that your feelings and preferences are important and respected.
Andrew Ryan, Executive Director at Tribute at Black Hill senior living community, talks about how seniors can be made to feel welcome from the very first day they join
“A really good place to start in caring for the LGBTQ+ community is to get on the same page with families and residents about language (words/preferred names for partners, asking in the discovery process what would you like us to call you?). It’s okay to show you don’t know, because asking shows you care and want to get it right. Once we are aware, like any other resident, it’s important to apply what we have learned to honor those preferences from the top down.”
As a gay senior, you may have concerns about whether staff members will be welcoming and respectful of your needs. In a recent study conducted by AARP about LGBTQ+ seniors, more than 60% of seniors had these kinds of concerns. To ensure that you find a senior living community where you will feel safe and well-cared for, it is important to visit in person to observe how staff members interact with residents and how residents interact with each other. Is everyone made to feel welcome and included? Do staff members take the time to get to know the needs and preferences of each resident? What are the social interactions like between residents, and how do they speak about staff members? Most importantly, you will want to ask lots of questions of those you meet as you tour the community.
Sean Connor, Executive Director at Cadence Olney, wants to ease the concerns of LGBTQ+ seniors, and assure them that they will find a welcoming home at any of the Cogir Family of Communities. “We want every resident in our communities to feel safe, respected, welcomed and well-cared for. It is important to us that residents have a sense of belonging and acceptance, and that they feel valued.” Connor continues, “Particularly with any prospective LGBTQ+ residents, we want to go above and beyond in making sure that they are respected, feel a sense of community, and feel completely safe to be who they are and express themselves openly.”
In addition to finding a senior living community where you feel safe and respected, you want to feel that you are part of a community. You also want to feel that you can be open and proud about who you are and what you have to offer. It is important to look for a senior community that creates activities and events that help to celebrate gay seniors and foster that sense of community.
Creating Meaningful Connections and Celebrating the LGBTQ+ Community
Having a strong and supportive community is important for all seniors, but it can be especially critical for LGBTQ+ seniors. Understanding these sensitivities, senior communities can be proactive about creating opportunities for connection, relationship building, and understanding.
One of the senior community activities that can foster and build relationships and connections is starting a book club to discuss books that celebrate the LGBTQ+ journey. For gay seniors, reading about others in their community can give them a sense that they are not alone in their experiences, and it can instill a sense of pride and identity. For heterosexual seniors, it can help them understand the LGBTQ+ experience more fully, and become more accepting of their LGBTQ+ peers by engaging in open and honest conversations.
A senior community can also support gay pride and foster a sense of belonging not just during LGBTQ+ Pride Month, but year round. Bringing in speakers to discuss LGBTQ+ history and culture or hosting performances by gay singers or performers, demonstrates to all residents the importance of inclusion and celebrating every person as valuable and deserving of love and acceptance. One such event was held at the Cadence Olney senior living community. “Drag Queen Bingo was a big success,” stated Ashley Swensen, Community Relations Director. “The residents enjoyed an exciting night of entertainment, fabulous prizes, food, mocktails, and a caricature artist. Everyone had a wonderful evening!”
As a gay senior, you can also connect to the LGBTQ+ community through outside activities such as volunteering, advocacy groups, enjoying cultural events and joining LGBTQ+-friendly organizations.
Connecting With the Broader LGBTQ+ Community
In addition to building relationships within your senior living community, you can look for other ways to make connections and show support for LGBTQ+ rights. Activities like volunteering with LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations such as PFLAG can create a sense of purpose and hope. Mentoring LGBTQ+ youth can help you to connect to the next generation by giving young people the support and acceptance they need on their journey. Attending performances, parades, and demonstrations can also instill pride in your community and all of the accomplishments and advancements that have been made.
The Cogir Family of Communities Provides a Welcoming, Inclusive Environment for LGBTQ+ Seniors
If you are looking for a vibrant senior living community to call home, the Cogir Family of Communities provides a welcoming and inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ seniors where they are treated with dignity, respect, and the highest level of care.They also believe in the importance of providing activities that foster connections and help LGBTQ+ seniors to build relationships and feel pride in their authentic selves.
Five senior living communities in the Washington, DC metropolitan area – Tribute at One Loudoun in Ashburn, VA; Tribute at The Glen in Woodbridge, VA; Tribute at Black Hill in Germantown, MD; Tribute at Melford in Bowie, MD; and Cadence Olney in Olney, MD – are part of the Cogir Family of communities. What sets Cogir apart is the company’s devoted approach to creating healthy, vibrant communities that offer residents exceptional independent living, assisted living and memory care lifestyle options. Cogir Senior Living develops, owns and/or operates 60 lifestyle communities throughout the United States. For more information, visit www.Cogirseniorliving.com