As we near the end of LGBTQ Pride month, it seems appropriate to take a look at how the LGBTQ community is approaching later life and explore some of the opportunities that are allowing members of the community to age comfortably and be supported in later-life. Although the obstacles they face have been lessening in recent years, one thing seems clear: some states are more welcoming to LGBTQ elders than others.
In today’s world, people in same-sex relationships or who have lived as gays, lesbians, or trans-gender citizens in their adult lives have been viciously discriminated against when trying to secure senior housing, and until very recently, there was no such thing as an LGBTQ-friendly retirement community. The latter has changed in the last decade or so, with the opening of several retirement communities specifically designed for the LGBTQ community.
My own hometown, Santa Rosa, CA boasts just such a community, Fountaingrove Lodge, which caters to more affluent gays and lesbians. Fountaingrove Lodge was designed as an independent-living community with continuing care options for those who eventually need assisted living and/or memory care. Other LGBTQ-focused planned retirement communities exist in Palm Springs, CA (Stonewall Gardens), the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina (Carefree Cove), and Tampa, FL (Palms of Manasota).
However, many members of the LGBTQ community in the U.S. have heretofore felt safest in large urban areas and some of the largest cities have very high costs of living. Encouragingly, some of the biggest cities are developing low-income options for less affluent LGBTQ elders to allow them to remain in their homes. San Francisco’s OpenHouse is a project of 119 low-income apartments; more are on the way. In New York City, SAGE (the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of the LGBTQ population and their elders) opened an LGBTQ-friendly senior housing building in the Bronx, Crotona Senior Residences, and another at Stonewall House in Brooklyn. In Chicago, there are the Town Hall apartments, in Philadelphia the LGBTQ community can find friendly housing at the John C. Anderson Apartments, and in Los Angeles there is Triangle Square and the newer LGBTQ Center.
Some of these offer care options; some offer only an LGBTQ-friendly environment. Even combined, this seems a sadly small number of options when considering there are approximately 2.4 million gays and lesbians in the U.S. over the age of 65. Fortunately, many of the predominantly straight and cis-gender senior living communities I have spoken with over the last decade have become much more welcoming to the LGBTQ community and the residential make-up is beginning to reflect that reality.
Like the rest of the aging population, members of the LGBTQ community are widely divergent in their ideas of a pleasant and rewarding retirement. Many people want to stay where they know people and have meaningful connections with the community at large. Others may want to pursue a change of location–for reasons of cost, weather, proximity to services, and more. Those who are contemplating the possibility of a move may want to consider which states are mostly friendly to the LGBTQ community…and which are not.
Because many states still have no statutory protections against discrimination in housing on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, it seems critical to know where those safeguards are in place when choosing a new residence. The following list is based on local laws as well as the percentage of the population over 65, the percentage of the population identified as LGBTQ, and average home price, and the cost of living. As of 2022, the following are the most accommodating states for retirement for members of the LGBTQ community:
1. New Hampshire
5. New York