The Golden Years?

August 19, 2011

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Let’s face it. We’re getting old.

And while we look good for our age, we also need help.

No, I’m not talking about plastic surgery-esque help. I’m talking about housing, programs and services for the aging LGBT community. According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, there are currently an estimated three million of us older than 60 currently living in the U.S., and that number is expected to double by 2030. This aging LGBT generation is the generation that defined who we are today. We owe a great deal of credit to these early pioneers who embraced the movement by being out and open in communities around the nation, affirming the opportunity for future generations to pursue happiness without fear. The least we can do is ensure that the golden years are as comfortable as possible.

Retirement communities have long capitalized on creating the snowbird’s dream: a community that caters to your every whim. And as we get older, we often transition from independent living to assisted living facilities, requiring a bit more support to accomplish our daily tasks. While the prospect of retirement and financial stability may be a fleeting dream, there is no question that the reality is we need retirement options that are specifically designed for our population.

Companies that specialize in services for Older Americans need to recognize that boomers aren’t the only segment aging into the retirement years. The LGBT community represents a specific population that needs attention. There is both a vulnerability and an opportunity to design housing communities for the LGBT segment, with trained staff that are open, comfortable  and sensitive to the various needs of our audience.

The need to address this audience as a specific group extends beyond retirement living. I recently observed LGBT focus groups, two of which were with the 55+ crowd. It became clear while listening to this audience that they are crying out to be recognized as a viable, healthy audience. Any company wishing to engage with the LGBT population must recognize that not only are we different by each letter in LGBT, we are also different by age. We’re not all 20-something models that go out all night (was I ever that?). We are same-sex partners planning weddings. We are lifetime husbands that are celebrating our 30th anniversary. We are two moms that are raising teen daughters. We are young activists paving new agendas. The images that you use to reach us, and the words you use to describe us, must resonate with us as individuals, not just “the gays.” I heard time and time again in these groups that they want to see older LGBT individuals in marketing and advertisements. Think of the Dove campaign– real women. Translate the effectiveness of that campaign– women of all shapes and sizes– and you start to see how it could work with our segment.

I have long thought, and embraced, that I will probably not retire. I just don’t think it is a reality for me. But, that doesn’t mean that those who have come before me don’t deserve to live out their golden years in a comfortable, open environment. I hope that retirement corporations, and the Housing and Urban Development communities, will quickly recognize the opportunity to break new ground, literally, for our friends.

What do you think? Do you agree that there are too few LGBT retirement communities in our country? Do you think you’ll retire?