Most people daydream about how much fun they will have when they first retire, but imagining what might come later? Not so much.
Let’s face it: the thought of eventually being in a nursing home isn’t exactly an exciting prospect. For LGBT people, the anxieties around that possibility are stronger than for most. It’s time we confront our fears head-on, and the first step is looking at some of the facts. Some of them are pretty stark, but bear with me. I promise it gets better by the end!
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cost of living for adults aged 65 and older is roughly $46,000 per year. The stereotype of all gay people being rich notwithstanding,
LGBT elders are actually more likely to live in poverty than their straight and cisgender peers.
They are more likely to live alone, and more likely to feel isolated. The primary caretakers for most older adults tend to be their children, but LGBT people are less likely to have kids, and there’s less social pressure on friends to become caretakers. For those reasons, LGBT elders may be more likely to eventually rely on nursing homes for their long-term care.
A significant portion of LGBT elders feel that they cannot be open with the staff of long-term care facilities about their sexual orientation or gender identity. In a 2011 report entitled LGBT Older Adults in Long-Term Care Facilities: Stories from the Field, many reported verbal and physical harassment by their peers and staff in nursing homes. Others reported refusal of admission, abrupt discharge, restriction of visitors, intentional misgendering, and even denial of basic care.
Another study from 2014 found that nearly half of self-identified lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults who enquired about admission to senior housing communities “experienced unfavorable differential treatment in terms of availability of housing, pricing, financial incentives, amenities, or application requirements.”
Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, I’m going to give you a suggestion that’s going to have you humming “Thank You for Being a Friend” by the end of this article.
A way to mitigate – or even completely avoid – all of the above problems has been right under our noses since 1985. You guessed it: Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and Sofia enjoyed the kind of retirement most people only dream of. Split living expenses, great social support, funny friends who make chicken soup and sit with you at your sick bed, and even some pretty hot date nights. The Golden Girls knew that shared housing is the way to go for those who can find the right roommates.
You may already have the perfect combination of your friends for this setup in mind. Or maybe your social support system needs an overhaul. New Orleans Advocates for GLBT Elders (NOAGE) provides regular social events for LGBT older adults – and their allies of all ages – including Coffee Talks, potlucks, movie nights, and a walking group. These events are the perfect way to meet new friends, and start building your social network.
Start a conversation with your friends about the idea of shared housing. Find out who might be interested, and then start thinking about the when, where, and how of it. What age do you plan to retire? Is there a part of town that all of you could agree to live in? What would be your shared expenses and budget? Those are just some of the questions you can start answering together now.
Assume that you and your friends will need a hired caretaker at least some of the time. Even with healthy friends or family around, there may be times when you need extra help. Reach out to an elder care home service provider like Home Instead to find out about the kinds of services you may need, and the costs involved.
NOAGE is working to educate local healthcare providers, including long-term care facility staff on the unique needs of LGBT older adults. We’ve trained several hundred healthcare professionals in the last couple of years. But we still have a lot of work to do, and most of the long-term care facilities in New Orleans are very much in need of LGBT cultural competency training. (If you’re in a position to help us get a foot in the door of any local long-term care facilities, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
In the meantime, start reaching out to your BFFs now to plan a get-together, and start working out a plan that will work for all of you. Don’t forget the cheesecake!
(This article originally appeared, in a slightly different form, on squirrelnews.net. Re-published with permission.)