PHILADELPHIA (AP) – At age 62, Donald Carter knows his arthritis and other age-related infirmities will not allow him to live indefinitely in his third-floor walkup apartment in Philadelphia.
But as a low-income renter, Carter has limited options. And as a gay black man, he’s concerned his choice of senior living facilities might be narrowed further by the possibility of intolerant residents or staff members.
“The system as it stands is not very accommodating,” Carter said. “I don’t really want to see any kind of negative attitude or lack of service because anyone … is gay or lesbian.”
Experts say many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender seniors fear discrimination, disrespect or worse by health care workers and residents of elder housing facilities — ultimately leading many to go back into the closet after years of being open about their sexual orientation.
That anxiety takes on new significance as the first of the 77 million baby boomers turns 65 this year. At least 1.5 million seniors are gay, a number expected to double by 2030, according to SAGE, the New York-based group Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders.
Recognizing the need, developers in Philadelphia have secured a site and initial funding for what would be one of the nation’s few GLBT-friendly affordable housing facilities. They hope to break ground on a 52-unit, $17 million building in 2013.
Anti-discrimination laws prohibit gay-only housing, but projects can be made GLBT-friendly through marketing and location. And while private retirement facilities targeted at the gay community exist, such residences are often out of reach for all but the wealthiest seniors.
Census figures released last week indicate about 49 percent of Americans over 65 could be considered poor or low-income.
Gays are also less likely to have biological family to help out with informal caregiving, either through estrangement or being childless, making them more dependent on outside services. And that makes them more vulnerable, SAGE executive director Michael Adams said.