Finding welcoming and affordable housing can be a struggle for any aging individual, but for LGBT elders, the task can be even more difficult.

Kelly Kent, Director of SAGE’s National LGBT Elder Housing Initiatives, will provide information and resources to support LGBT elders in need of quality housing at a special upcoming Lunch & Learn workshop presented by The LGBT Health Resource Center on Wednesday, March 21 from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Chase Brexton Health Care’s Mt. Vernon Center (1111 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD).

We asked Kent about the housing disparities faced by LGBT elders, and the work that SAGE does to assist those in need.

What are the greatest challenges LGBT elders face in finding housing?

One of the most obvious challenges, one that is not unique to LGBT older adults but is being experienced by all older adults, is the sheer surge in population among that demographic. There are currently an estimated 3 million LGBT adults over the age of 50, and this number is expected to grow to 7 million in the next 15 to 20 years—largely mirroring the larger aging population. Appropriate housing options that are affordable will become more difficult to locate for all older adults.

For LGBT elders specifically, there are few measures to protect them from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. There are no federal fair housing protections in place, and only 21 states or localities have fair housing protections. Additionally, many elders have to interact with housing and service providers that lack LGBT cultural competency, so they often will not disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity.

What are some of the key pressures on LGBT elders that can make finding housing so hard?

LGBT older adults are twice as likely to be single and three to four times more likely not to have children, so caregiving can be an issue. In addition, the added stress of dealing with decades of discrimination means that LGBT older people tend to experience greater health disparities, as well as mental health concerns like depression and social isolation. Many also experience higher rates of poverty than their cisgender or straight counterparts.

What types of systemic reform are needed to help correct these disparities?

SAGE is engaged in advocacy to ensure sexual orientation and gender identity are protected under the federal Fair Housing Act.  We also are engaged through our national training certification program, SAGECare (http://sageusa.care), to provide LGBT cultural competency training to housing and service providers nationwide.

In the meantime, where can LGBT elders turn for help?

Through its National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative (www.sageusa.org/lgbthousing), SAGE is actively engaged in providing alternatives to communities interested in better serving their LGBT older adults. This includes LGBT cultural competency training, as well as providing capacity building and technical assistance to those interested in developing LGBT-friendly, multi-family affordable senior housing which offers LGBT cultural competency and LGBT-centric programming.

In addition, many older adults prefer to remain in their own homes for as long as possible to age safely in their own community. SAGE is actively engaged with partners in the national affordable housing space to promote aging-in-place models coupled with LGBT culturally competent care coordination, to help ensure those who want to remain at home can do so safely.  There are also emerging models such as roommate matching programs, co-housing models and naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs) as well.

There isn’t one prescribed way of aging safely in community. Therefore, SAGE is actively looking to build out a continuum of housing options for its constituents to provide LGBT older adults the same alternatives their cisgender and straight peers enjoy.

Anyone interested in attending or receiving more information on this upcoming Lunch and Learn workshop is encouraged to RSVP to lgbt@chasebrexton.org or call 410-837-2050 extension 1107.

For or more information about LGBT Elder Care, please contact lgbt@chasebrexton.org, call 410-837-2050 extension 1049, or visit www.chasebrexton.org/LGBTElders.

About The LGBT Health Resource Center

The purpose of the LGBT Health Resource Center of Chase Brexton Health Care is to provide LGBTQ individuals and their families with welcoming access to expert health information and resources that will enhance wellness and quality of life. For more information, please visit ResourceCenter.lgbt

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Aaron Cahall
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