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SLC ranks in the Top 15 US cities for gay-friendly retirement; yet, national report shows rising risks for older LGBT people

According to a recent report, Dignity Denied: Religious Exemptions and LGBT Elder Services, released by MAP, PRPCP, and SAGE, highlights the unique ways in which harm to LGBT elders is growing from laws and policies aimed at exempting religious organizations and individuals from following nondiscrimination and civil rights laws and policies. LGBT older adults, like many older Americans in the U.S., access a network of service providers for health care, community programming and congregate meals, food and income assistance, and housing, ranging from independent living to skilled in-home nursing. Approximately 85 percent of nonprofit continuing-care retirement communities are affiliated with a religion. Religiously affiliated facilities also provide the highest number of affordable housing units that serve low-income seniors. Furthermore, 14 percent of hospitals in the United States are religiously affiliated, accounting for 17 percent of all the country’s hospital beds.

LGBT elders face unique challenges to successful aging, stemming from current and past structural and legal discrimination. Recent efforts at the local, state, and federal levels to allow those with religious or moral objections to being exempt from nondiscrimination laws exacerbate these risk factors, leaving LGBT older adults vulnerable to increased discrimination and mistreatment.

Additionally, the report outlines myriad federal and state efforts to allow individuals, businesses, and organizations to opt out of following nondiscrimination laws, as long as they cite a religious objection. While most providers will do the right thing when it comes to serving their clients, some will only do so when required by law. The report concludes that because so many service providers are religiously affiliated, these laws pose a considerable threat to the health and well being of LGBT older adults.

“LGBT older adults already are more likely to be isolated and vulnerable. It is unconscionable that state and federal governments are working to allow providers to deny critical health care services and vital social supports to LGBT older adults simply because of who they are,” said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of MAP. “Imagine how much harder it would be to reach out for help if you knew the organizations that were supposed to help you could legally reject you, and the government would back them up.”

As access to healthcare and housing tend to go hand-in-hand for the elderly, earlier in December, SeniorAdvice.com, a senior housing referral services, released an article on the 15 best thriving senior living communities for LGBT seniors in the United States. Using an unbiased, data-driven algorithm that determines the most accommodating places in America for seniors, Salt Lake City ranked 11th, with a score of 71 percent. The score evaluates over 100 variables across multiple categories that are pertinent to an area’s older residents, including access to healthcare, social and recreational activities, general affordability, safety, quality of environment, and more. Additionally, they analyzed the overall LGBT populations per capita for each city, the presence of gay-friendly social settings, support for gay-owned businesses, and the overall level of tolerance and legal protection of the communities.

One Utah LGBT senior (who asked to remain anonymous) feels the SLC ranking “sounds better than it is.” Because Utah is generally family-friendly, that sheds off on seniors in general and LGBTQ in particular. I don’t see any evidence of emphases on seniors in our area,” the individual added.

SeniorAdvice.com named Austin, Texas, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Minneapolis the top three cities with LGBT-friendly senior housing communities.

Photo Credit: Anna Gorman

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