When You’re Old And Gay

Responding to an AP story about a new gay-friendly housing complex for low-income seniors in Philly, J. Bryan Lowder touches on the special challenges our gay elders face:

[E]ldercare is also a matter of economic justice. The responsibility that [chairman of the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund Mark] Segal articulates is easy to forget in the era of gay marriage, in which same-sex couples are increasingly able to consolidate their wealth and plan for their retirements and estates in ways that older generations just couldn’t. And regardless of whether gay elders found life partners or not, the hard truth is that, as Segal mentions, simply being queer and out in previous decades often had severe—and long-term—consequences on an individual’s finances.

But the most unconscionable aspect of this issue—and the one that affordable elder housing is ideally suited to prevent—is the pressure many LGBTQ seniors feel to go back into the closet after a lifetime of openness. This kind of retreat can seem necessary in traditional nursing homes and retirement communities as queer residents are forced to reintegrate with their less tolerant age-group. Imagine the pain of having to police your behavior or refrain from discussing a partner who has passed in your own home—it’s barbaric. Hopefully, other cities will take a cue from Philadelphia and work to create accommodations for our elders that afford them the peace and dignity they deserve.