Academic journal article Generations

Mary's House: An LGBTQ/SGL-Friendly, Alternative Environment for Older Adults

Academic journal article Generations

Mary's House: An LGBTQ/SGL-Friendly, Alternative Environment for Older Adults

Article excerpt

There once was an older man and his wife, who were cared for by the man's daughter. man got sick and had to move into an assisted living facility. His wife, daughter, other family members, and friends often would visit him there. The staff treated the man and his family very well, even if they had little time for giving individual attention.

Another older man had a life partner of twenty-five years. In his life, he had ministered to and lost more than 100 friends to HIV/AIDS. One day, this man fell ill and needed to be cared for outside the home. His life partner toured many senior living residences, but on one pretext or another was always turned away. Finally, one facility said yes; they welcomed everyone. He took his beloved there. They had no children, but many friends visited. Some of their friends looked "gay." Other residents complained that they did not want to be around a gay person. The man did not feel comfortable showing his partner any affection.

I am the daughter of the man in the first scenario. I often wonder what it would have been like if my father had been an older gay man or an older black transgender woman. We still hear stories of discrimination in senior housing, and stories of people dying alone because of social isolation when they choose not to move into such facilities.

People are looking for places to be older and gay, and not be pressured into going back into the closet. For some people, that place will be Mary's House, which was conceived to create an environment that is friendly and accepting to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and same-genderloving (LGBTQ/SGL) older persons.

Mary's House: A Communal Model

Established in 2012, Mary's House for Older Adults, Inc. (Mary's House) in Washington, D.C., develops LGBTQ/SGL-friendly, affordable communal housing, and coordinates programs for independent people ages 60 and older. As a member of the National LGBT Elder Housing Movement, Mary's House in 2015 presented at the first White House LGBT Elder Housing Summit, focusing its presentation on the relational needs of LGBTQ/SGL elders and the advantages of a communal housing model.

A primary tenet of Mary's House is to decrease the social isolation that is so common among older adults, but is especially pervasive in LGBTQ/SGL elders. …

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