When 84-year-old LGBT trailblazer Edie Windsor is celebrated at Jewish Home Lifecare’s “Eight Over Eighty” gala in NYC on March 5, the event may turn into a mutual admiration society. That’s because the 165-year-old provider of eldercare services has been making a full-throttled effort to become a place where LGBT elders can live openly and proudly, treated with the respect to which they, like all human beings, are entitled.
The issue is critical. A 2011 survey conducted by the National Senior Citizens Law Center revealed that fewer than 25% of LGBT older adults felt they could be open about their identities with the staff of their long-term care facilities.
Things are very different at Jewish Home Lifecare.
The national organization SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders), which honored Jewish Home Lifecare with its Aging Services Leadership Award in October, is partnering with the nonprofit organization on a multi-year, institution-wide training program. The goal is to make sure every single staff member understands and is sensitive to the needs and concerns of LGBT residents.
That Jewish Home’s “cultural competency" is already in a good place is clear from the plans for a new residence that will open in 2018. The residence, called The Living Center of Manhattan, is being developed as a GREEN HOUSE® facility, meaning that the focus, in design and operation, will be on dignity and autonomy for all residents in all things. Green House® facilities operate as collections of small, nurturing households (apartments), each with individual bedrooms/baths clustered around a shared living/dining space. Among the 22 households in the new facility will be an all-LGBT apartment that LGBT adults can opt for if they wish – the first time such an option has been available at a skilled nursing facility in NYC.
Long overlooked, aging LGBT adults face distinct challenges. Most LGBT elders live alone, they are less likely to have partners or adult children to care for them and advocate on their behalf, and they often face discrimination in health insurance, medical care, social services, and housing. Unlike married heterosexual couples, LGBT elders living in nursing homes do not usually have the right to stay in the same room.
Jewish Home Lifecare is proud to be changing all that.