This is a guest blog contributed by SeniorHomes.com.
Access to safe, clean housing and adequate care is vital for older adults, but for those who identify as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, finding that care is often more challenging than it is for the average senior. Discrimination due to gender or sexual preference can make it difficult to find a senior living option where they feel safe, accepted and well cared for.
According to research published by Healthy People, an initiative of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, discrimination against LGBTQIA+ seniors is associated with increased rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse and suicide, highlighting the importance of discrimination-free health care and living options for LGBTQIA+ elders. This especially applies to those living in poverty or with poor physical or mental health, all of which LGBTQIA+ seniors are unfortunately more vulnerable to.
In this guide, we discuss housing rights for LGBTQIA+ seniors, common challenges faced by elderly members of this community, and how their loved ones can find safe, comfortable senior housing. It also includes lists of resources where seniors can seek help.
Housing Rights for LGBTQIA+ Seniors
It's important for LGBTQIA+ seniors to know their rights and understand what protections are in place to ensure their access to safe, sanitary housing without facing discrimination.
Protections are in place at the federal, state and municipal levels to prevent LGBTQIA+ seniors from experiencing discrimination, abuse or neglect in all types of public and private housing, including long-term care. These laws protect the rights of LGBTQIA+ seniors to maintain privacy and respect when it comes to gender identity and sexual orientation.
Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability.
While the FHA doesn't explicitly mention the rights of LGBTQIA+ seniors or sexual orientation/gender identity, it does apply to members of this community. Its protections prohibit landlords and real estate companies from discriminatory actions based on a person's LGBTQIA+ identity, such as:
- Refusing to rent, sell or negotiate
- Setting different terms, conditions or privileges
- Advertising or making any statement that indicates a preference or limitation
- Retaliating against a person who asserts their FHA-granted rights
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Equal Access Rule
The Equal Access Rule is a federal regulation that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in HUD-funded and -insured housing programs. The Equal Access Rule includes various protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including:
- Prohibiting operators from asking about a person's orientation or gender identity
- Prohibiting operators from denying or limiting access to housing
- Prohibiting operators from setting different terms, conditions, or privileges
- Requiring operators to make reasonable accommodations for LGBTQIA+ individuals with disabilities
Along with federal regulations protecting elderly members of the LGBTQIA+ community, there are many regulations and laws at state and municipal levels. Seniors who identify as members of this often marginalized group should research what laws are in place in their area to protect their right to safe and affordable housing.
Challenges Faced by LGBTQIA+ Seniors
LGBTQIA+ seniors face a variety of unique challenges that can make aging more difficult compared with other senior citizens.
Many LGBTQIA+ seniors face financial constraints, often as a result of employment and financial discrimination they've faced throughout their lives. Challenges with obtaining credit products such as loans and mortgages, as well as unfair treatment in the workplace, may have made it more difficult to get ahead financially compared with their non-LGBTQIA+ peers.
Furthermore, LGBTQIA+ seniors are more likely to live alone and without children, which can put them at a disadvantage compared to those with larger family networks.
Despite federal and state laws that protect LGBTQIA+ seniors from discrimination when searching for housing, it still occurs in many areas. Some landlords may refuse to rent to LGBTQIA+ individuals or provide members of the LGBTQIA+ community with homes that have substandard living conditions.
Isolation affects many members of the LGBTQIA+ community; however, research published by the AARP indicates that gay men are likely to be more isolated than lesbians. While 43% of gay men polled said they were concerned about having adequate family support while aging, only 41% of lesbians felt the same. When asked who they relied on within their support network, only 50% of gay men mentioned a spouse or partner, while 67% of lesbians said they relied on their spouse.
Health Care Disparities
Health care disparities are common among seniors who identify as LGBTQIA+. These seniors are often less likely to seek health care services due to a fear of facing discrimination or concern about the quality of care they may receive.
In addition to the challenges outlined above, LGBTQIA+ seniors may face several other issues. For example, they may be more likely to experience physical and emotional abuse from peers and family members. Additionally, LGBTQIA+ seniors may face discrimination in accessing community services or other resources that can be critical to maintaining their quality of life.
For more about senior living options for LGBTQIA+ adults and additional resources, please visit our website at seinorhomes.com.