Gay seniors struggling to find ‘safe’ retirement housing: Inclusive projects developing slowly in public and private sectors

Fudger House StoryAlf Roberts took part in his first pride parade when he was 80 years old, shortly after coming out of the closet.

The Toronto senior rode on a bus decorated by Fudger House, a downtown long-term care home that focuses on creating a positive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered seniors. [note from LGBT Older Adult Coalition – the more commonly accepted term in Michigan is “transgender” and some transgender community members prefer “transgendered” not be used at all – for more discussion on this, visit http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joanne-herman/transgender-or-transgende_b_492922.html]

Roberts, one of the 249 residents at Fudger House, hasn’t missed a parade since that day three years ago. He credits his openness and willingness to take part in the event to the support he has received at the municipal facility.

“In the three years I’ve been here, I’ve been more open than I ever was in my life,” Roberts told CBC News.

“I feel comfortable and safe here. It doesn’t matter here if you’re ‘different’ — I guess you could use the word.”

Fudger House is a forerunner in inclusive housing in Canada, where models to meet the housing needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered seniors are developing slowly in both the public and private sectors.

According to a national survey by Toronto-based Forum Research in 2012, 2.6 per cent of Canadians aged 55 and older say they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered.

LGBT seniors often lack the traditional support network — such as spouses and children — enjoyed by their heterosexual counterparts, according to Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders (SAGE), a U.S.-based advocacy group.

Research conducted by the group found that LGBT seniors are twice as likely to age alone, four and a half times more likely to have no children to rely on and five times less likely to access senior services.

Toronto initiative sets example

Located on the doorstep of Church Wellesley Village, Canada’s largest LGBT community, Fudger House became a pioneer in the transition to inclusive housing when the City of Toronto designated it an LGBT-positive environment in 2004.  Read more.