Kitchener-Waterloo

Region's LGBTQ group aims to build housing for LGBTQ seniors

Many LGBTQ seniors worry they'll have to hide their sexual orientation when entering long-term care homes. But Spectrum, a local LGBTQ organization, hopes to bring a solution locally.

'It would be one step toward allowing people to be who they are,' group president says

BERLIN, GERMANY - JULY 22: Revelers dance on during the 2017 Christopher Street Day gay pride celebration on July 22, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. The Bundestag, Germany's parliament, recently passed a law that allows marriage between same-sex couples, finally giving them the same rights by marriage as for heterosexuals. Same-sex couples had preciously only been granted a special partnership that did not include the same legal rights as for married couples. (Photo by Michele Tantussi/Getty Images) (Michele Tantussi/Getty Images)

Local LGBTQ group, Spectrum, is in the early stages of developing a project that aims to build safe spaces for LGBTQ seniors in Kitchener-Waterloo.

In June, a CBC News special report found that many LGBTQ seniors worry they'll have to hide their sexual orientation when entering long-term care homes. 

"When people go into senior serving institutions of various kinds, they go back in the closet," said Cait Glasson, president of Spectrum and a member of the organization's Aging with Pride committee.

Part of the reason why, said Glasson, is because many people living in long-term care homes or retirement homes grew up in a time when LGBTQ people were not as widely accepted as they are today.

"We've got these people who are reluctant to be out because the people they are living beside could be their abusers," Glasson said.

Gauging a need

Spectrum recently partnered with Community Justice Initiative, who will help look after the administration side of the project.

In anticipation to this project, Glasson said Spectrum conducted a pilot project in 2017 where LGBTQ people would visit with seniors to help reduce the stigma.

Glasson noted that in all eight senior institutions they visited, not one person was out, but she is certain there has to be a handful of LGBTQ seniors present.

"We're talking about homes that have 200 or 300 inhabitants. The odds that there's nobody gay or trans is low," Glasson said.

Though it's still in the early stages, Glasson's long-term hope for the project is to create a home that operates like Sunnyside in Kitchener for LGBTQ seniors that is affordable.

"Even if we started out small...it would be one step toward allowing people to be who they are," Glasson said. 

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