Approximately 2.4 million senior citizens in the United States identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. The American Psychological Association projectsthat as the baby boomer generation ages, this population will increase “from 12.8 percent to an estimated 19 percent by 2030.” Everybody deserves to age with dignity, regardless of one’s sexual orientation. However, LGBT seniors face unique challenges that stand in the way of their access to care, financial stability, and health care outcomes.
According to an AARP survey, “52% of LGBT adults say they fear discrimination in health care as they age, while 88% want providers who are specifically trained to meet LGBTQ patient needs.” These widespread fears are rooted in statistical realities. A study from UCLA confirms that “LGBT older adults are more likely to be single or living alone and less likely to have children to care for them than non-LGBT elders.” Moreover, LGBT seniors experience “unfavorable differential treatment, including less housing availability and higher pricing, as compared to non-LGBT seniors.”
The growing need for LGBT-inclusive care has opened the door for new and innovative care programs. Lambda Living, a program of Jewish Community Services, seeks to provide a safe and supportive place for South Florida’s LGBT elders to age in peace.
The National LGBTQ Task Force Gala – Miami had the opportunity to interview Cindy Brown, who manages the Lambda Living Program. Brown has worked professionally on behalf of Miami’s LGBT community over the last 25 years. Our conversation touched on the needs of LGBT seniors in South Florida, how Lambda Living provides greater access to care, and how the National LGBTQ Task Force Gala – Miami helps benefit the program.
This interview has been condensed and lightly edited
What is the Lambda Living Program?
We are a program of Jewish Community Services. Jewish Community Services serve the entire community. I know some people hear the word Jewish and think it’s not for them, but JCS is for everybody, regardless of their faith.
JCS is one of the largest social service organizations in Miami-Dade, and it’s also one of the oldest. We create healthy communities by empowering people to live their lives to the fullest and giving them the tools and resources they need to do so. The Lambda Living Program is focused on LGBT people 55 and older. We do a variety of programming, and some are open to everyone regardless of age.
What Separates Lambda Living from a Traditional Senior Living Facility?
There are three components of the Lambda Living Program
Photograph of a “Lunch and Learn” Event
We provide social and educational activities every month, which include “Lunch and Learns,” where we provide lunch and a small presentation on an interesting topic. We’ve done some fun ones about how to take advantage of senior discounts and freebies, but we’ve also done some more educational ones like how you can make minor changes in your home so that it continues to serve you as you get older. Simple things like changing round doorknobs to flat ones, so that you can push down on the knob instead of grabbing it. People don’t necessarily think about this, but those with arthritis can’t really grab a traditional doorknob.
We also have a financial education series where we encourage young people to participate. They can be in the room while we talk about the issues and challenges that seniors face, thus allowing them to be better prepared for when they are seniors as well.
Why is it Important to Have an LGBT-Inclusive Living Facility?
When people are getting into their seventies and eighties, they could have been in really long-term relationships, and in a lot of cases when their partner dies, they can be completely alone. They become incredibly lonely and when that happens, people tend to isolate. Our new Housing Initiative will address this.
In January 2018, we launched Phase 1 of our housing initiative, which is our pilot project. We have three seniors, all of whom are LGBT, that we moved into an apartment building and are providing limited subsidies. That makes it affordable. And, they are receiving case management. We’re currently working on Phase 2, which entails acquiring a 15 – 20 unit building. We have looked at a lot of properties, but this process could take 12-18 months.
Our vision is that LGBT seniors in Miami-Dade County will have a safe and supportive place to age in peace. Especially folks living in congregate living facilities. The major focus is to create opportunities for seniors to meet new people, get out of their house to socialize, to feel safe in their homes, and to not be bullied for their orientation.
How does Task Force help benefit Lambda Living?
Because of the Miami Foundation, we have grown our programming and outreach efforts. Because we are a relatively new program, identifying those who need us can be difficult. We are always looking for new outreach opportunities.
We received funds from the Task Force to aid in outreach, particularly to the transgender and Hispanic community in Miami. If it weren’t for these funds, we would not have been able to grow like we have.
We want everybody to know that we’re here. If you know of a senior who is lonely or who might benefit from our activities, clinical services, case management, or other services offered, please send them our way. Jewish Community Services and Lambda Living are here for the entire community. If you need assistance, please call the JCS Access line – 305.576.6550