A new study released Monday by the Saskatoon Council on Aging says that LGBTQ seniors and older adults living in congregated-type living arrangements still face discrimination and hardship because of their sexual identities.

"Most mangers do not engage in overt discrimination," said Cheryl Loadman, who's with the Council on Aging.

Despite this, she noted that managers don't see that creating a welcoming environment is not a passive activity.

"Management has to act to ensure the development and implementation of policies that create a safe, supportive and friendly environment for LGBT older residents," she said. 

Anything less than that, she said, "is harmful to LGBTs individuals and sends them back in the closet."

'Many LGBT people told us they return to the closet because facilities make no formal effort to provide a safe environment, and they fear discrimination and isolation within the facility.' - Rachel Loewen Walker, OUTSaskatoon.

The study was conducted and released in collaboration with OUTSaskatoon. Its goal was to identify challenges that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer older adults and seniors face when they enter such living facilities.

The collaborative project grew out of the an initiative by the aging council called Age-Friendly Saskatoon, which involved conversations with many of the city's seniors.

"Many LGBT people told us they return to the closet because facilities make no formal effort to provide a safe environment, and they fear discrimination and isolation within the facility," said Rachel Loewen Walker, of OUTSaskatoon.

'The studies found that a small number of places even refused to acknowledge the issue.' - Rachel Loewen Walker, OUTSaskatoon

"None of the facilities interviewed in the study had policies addressing the LGBT older adult resident. In fact, the studies found that a small number of places even refused to acknowledge the issue," Loewen Walker said.

To help these facilities transition to incorporating positive environments, OUTSaskatoon and the aging council are issuing a training manual to the facilities to help managers with best practices. 

According to a release from the two agencies, a positive environment doesn't treat everyone as heterosexual.

"Instead, they include clear statements prohibiting discrimination, training for staff regarding how to be responsive and to provide appropriate services, and have services that are inclusive in language and presentation," it said in the release.

One best practice, according to the release, would be a LGBTQ older couple must be allowed to share a room and to put their names on the door without fear of retribution from staff and other residents.