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“We don’t have to worry about the ramifications of being ourselves.


We aren’t going to lose our housing. We aren’t going to receive less support. We are not going to be alone because we happen to be members of the LGBT community. That’s a wonderful, wonderful advantage that many of our colleagues don’t have so it’s important that this kind of housing is developed all over the country.” - Donald Bell, resident of Town Hall on Halsted, LGBT-Welcoming Senior Housing Photo Credit: Donald Bell - (c) Serena Worthington, SAGE

Some senior living communities may in fact leave LGBT older adults more vulnerable to discrimination and abuse. Lambda Legal, a legal organization working for the civil rights of LGBT people, recently took the case of an older lesbian who has been subjected to verbal and physical abuse since she came out in her low-income senior living facility.32 The suit against the facility alleges that the facility knew the abuse was occurring and did nothing to protect the resident, Marsha Wetzel.33 Research shows that Ms. Wetzel’s experience is not unique. In a study by the Equal Rights Center of older couples applying for housing in 10 states, 48% of the same-sex couples experienced overt discrimination in the application process, e.g. difference in availability or pricing (see Figure 4).34 In 10% of the tests, same-sex couples were quoted a rental price at least $100 more than the different-sex couple.35 In 2014, SAGE conducted a survey to determine the values, needs, wants, and lifestyle preferences of LGBT older people. Of respondents to SAGE’s survey, 13% reported facing housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and 25% of transgender

respondents reported discrimination based on gender identity.36 When broken down by race, a quarter of LGBT older adults of color reported experiencing housing discrimination based on race.37 In addition to facing housing challenges as older adults, many older LGBT people may have also faced housing discrimination when they were younger, which can lead directly to lower earning power and economic insecurity. Research shows that discrimination in housing not only results in higher housing costs, but longer, more costly searches for housing.38 And for some LGBT people the repercussions are even worse: discrimination in housing may result in “unstable housing”d or time spent in emergency shelters.39 Figure 4: Half of Older Same-Sex Couples Experience Discrimination Applying for Housing

Source: Equal Rights Center, “Opening Doors: An Investigation of Barriers to Senior Housing for Same-Sex Couples,” 2014, report.pdf. d

This term “unstable housing” is frequently used to refer to situations when an individual lacks the resources or support networks to retain or obtain permanent housing. Individuals may be homeless and lacking a residence, be in the process of being evicted and lack a subsequent residence for financial reasons, or be staying with friends or others and moving frequently because of lack of resources, for example.


Housing. In general, there is a lack of affordable housing for elders. (For a discussion on long-term care, see page 16.) LGBT elders need spaces to live and thrive that are affordable and affirming of their LGBT identity. Federal housing protections prohibit discrimination in federally-funded and insured housing on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity,29 but state laws are a patchwork: only 20 states prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and another two on sexual orientation alone.30 That leaves 50% of the LGBT population in states with no laws prohibiting housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.31

Profile for SAGE

Understanding Issues Facing LGBT Older Adults  

Co-authored with the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), this report aims to increase awareness of the diverse needs of lesbian, gay, bisexu...

Understanding Issues Facing LGBT Older Adults  

Co-authored with the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), this report aims to increase awareness of the diverse needs of lesbian, gay, bisexu...