In a little more than a decade, one in five Americans will turn 65 or older.
A study out of Harvard University found that there isn’t enough housing to meet the needs of these aging boomers.
The issue is especially problematic for gay and lesbian seniors who report facing discrimination when seeking housing. But there are a growing numbers of cities that have created affordable housing specifically for gay and lesbian seniors.
“Part of the problem that LGBT seniors have, is that when they go into a traditional assisted living community or a retirement community, often times they feel like they have to go back in the closet,” Sullivan explains. “They’re not able to talk about their life, their life partners, and that causes an enormous amount of stress.”
Alice Herman lives in the oldest affordable housing complex for LGBT seniors, Hollywood’s Triangle Square. She echoes Sullivan’s characterization.
If Herman had lived in a traditional retirement community, she says she wouldn’t have talked about her partner of 47 years, Sylvia, who died right before Herman moved into Triangle Square.
“I wouldn’t have spoken about it because there’d be no one around me who would look at me and understand,” Herman explains. “We can tell our stories, but it’s one thing to tell your story to someone who looks at you with eyes that understand and to someone who just looks at you. Where I am at, people understand what I’m saying.”
It’s not that everyone at Triangle Square identifies as LGBT — in fact, Sullivan and Herman both insist that straight seniors do live there, and that it’s valuable to the community.
Herman says the community at Triangle Square “keeps her alive.”
“I’m starting my 80th year; I don’t have a lot of future ahead of me, I have a lot of past, I have a lot of history, and my history is Silvia,” Herman said. “I thought I was getting an affordable place where I’d be safe and I could have the cats. I got a thousand times more.”
- WBUR’s CommonHealth: Out, Proud And Old: LGBT Seniors More Likely To Age Alone
- Kathleen Sullivan, director of Senior Services at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
- Alice Herman, resident at Triangle Square.