An Edmonton group wants to ensure gay and lesbian seniors don’t have to go back in the closet when they move into nursing homes and communal living centres.
Eric Storey, a social worker with the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton, says his organization hears many stories of seniors being forced back in the closet.
The group is now asking people in Edmonton’s aging LGBT community to fill out a survey to better understand any of the issues they face when moving into seniors’ facilities.
Storey says homophobia can lead to depression, isolation and other health consequences.
‘We’ve heard of seniors who’ve moved into a seniors' residence and who feel perhaps the staff might be fine, but there are several loud homophobic residents who would actually make their life hell if they were to explain who they are,” Storey said.
When Alfred Roberts moved into downtown Toronto's Fudger House — a long-term care home that focuses on creating a positive environment for LGBT seniors — he decided to come out.
“I’m 85, so what the heck,” he said. “At my age, why should I worry?”
Roberts says support from the Fudger House has made it easy for him to be himself.
“You can be yourself here and you’re accepted whatever you are,” he said.
It’s inclusive options like the Fudger House that Storey hopes to develop in Edmonton.
“We need to find out, ‘do people feel supported in the communities they live in?’” Storey said. “If not, how do we make it safe for people to be who they honestly are?”