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Your Guide to Retirement Homes and Assisted Living for LGBTQ+ Seniors

Written by Claire Samuels
 about the author
20 minute readLast updated October 19, 2022

Forming America’s first big “out” generation, significant numbers of baby boomers came of age during the Stonewall riots, survived the onset of the HIV epidemic, and laid the groundwork for marriage equality. Despite increasing advances in gay rights and acceptance, though, it can be difficult to find supportive assisted living for LGBTQ+ seniors. Even so, the number of communities catering to the unique needs of this group of aging adults has grown dramatically in recent years as interest in LGBT retirement communities continues to grow. To make sure you or your aging loved one can thrive, learn more about the challenges of finding inclusive senior housing, and which questions to ask when you’re seeking assisted living for LGBT seniors. Plus, learn how A Place for Mom can help you find the best cities and facilities to meet your loved one’s needs.

Key Takeaways

  1. The number of seniors who identify as LGBTQ+ is on the rise. However, due to social and health-care-related roadblocks, it may take extra work to find an ideal community for an LGBTQ+ loved one.
  2. Knowing what questions to ask can make your search easier. Asking about antidiscrimination policies, social groups, and staff experience can ensure a community is a good fit for your loved one.
  3. Legal victories and awareness promise a bright future for LGBTQ+ senior housing. As federal and local governments pass legislation in support of the LGBT community, senior living offers more opportunities.
  4. Many cities and communities offer LGBT-friendly senior living options. A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors can help you find affirming communities near you.

Challenges in finding assisted living for LGBT seniors

An estimated 2.4 million seniors in the U.S. self-identify as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer), according to the American Psychological Association.[01] However, many aging members of the LGBTQ+ community — sometimes abbreviated by senior-focused organizations as LGBT, since the term “queer” was often considered derogatory before being reclaimed by the community in the mid-1980s — still struggle to find supportive senior living options.

“Many of these folks have been out for a very long time and have no intent to go back in the closet,” says Kimberly Acquaviva, a nursing educator at George Washington University. “They’re looking for a place where they can be the vibrant people they’ve always been.”

As people begin to search for senior living, it’s important not only to consider health care needs and preferences, but also to keep in mind what makes a person feel engaged, comfortable, and safe. For some, that may be a rural setting with walking trails. For others, an arts and crafts program.

For LGBTQ+ seniors, there’s another layer to look for: A community should not only be a good fit for amenities and health care needs. It should also be a safe space to age while embracing a person’s true self.

“There’s very little LGBT-specific senior housing throughout the country, especially affordable housing,” says Sydney Kopp-Richardson, director of the national LGBT elder housing initiative at SAGE, an organization that provides advocacy and service for LGBT elders.

“It’s important to find senior living that’s elder-affirming — a place where staff, residents, and directors accept and affirm LGBT seniors and they don’t feel the need to go back into the closet.”

The good news: Welcoming senior housing options are on the rise. As of 2021, at least 1,100 affordable units of housing are available in the U.S. for older LGBTQ people, and a growing number of other communities offer LGBT-affirming resources, according to Forbes.[02]

There’s still a long way to go to secure equity for seniors in LGBT retirement communities and beyond, but federal, state, and local agencies have come a long way in implementing new laws and regulations to support LGBTQ seniors.

  • In 2013, the U.S. Department of Treasury and the IRS ruled that same-sex couples will be treated as married for federal tax purposes if they are legally or common-law married in states that recognize their marriage.[03]
  • On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned all state bans on same-sex marriage, legalizing it in all 50 states. They required states to honor out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses.[04]
  • Also in June 2015, married same-sex couples became eligible for coverage under the same Medicare and Medicaid rules as married opposite-sex couples in all states.[05]
  • As another part of this ruling, same-sex partners became eligible for Social Security survivor’s benefits.[06]
  • In February 2021, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released new antidiscrimination guidelines for the Fair Housing Act, which prohibited discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.[07]
  • Most recently, in 2022, the Social Security Administration chose to remove the requirement that transgender people show proof of identity to update their Social Security gender information. Once it goes into effect, this ruling will make it easier for transgender seniors to access supportive health care as well as retirement benefits.[08]

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LGBTQ+ senior living options

Senior living isn’t one-size-fits-all, and it’s important to find the right community fit for your loved one’s individual social, emotional, and medical needs. No matter which type of senior housing is the best for you or your aging relative, know that safe and affirming options for LGBT seniors are available.

LGBT retirement communities

Retirement communities, senior apartments, and independent living facilities offer a carefree lifestyle for older adults who want to enjoy retirement without the complications of homeownership. Senior independent living facilities provide a variety of convenient services and amenities, including prepared meals, transportation, social activities, and housekeeping.

Your loved one may be able to participate in gay retirement community activities like pride celebrations, discussion groups, and trips to local institutions with like-minded individuals, without the stress of home maintenance or meal preparation.

Assisted living for LGBTQ seniors

Assisted living communities provide housing and care for seniors who are generally active but may need help and support with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and medication management. Assisted living offers transportation, restaurant-style dining, and additional safety features to maximize care for aging adults.

A wide range of social activities cater to a variety of interests and offer a sense of community. While assisted living for LGBT seniors specifically may be more difficult to find than LGBTQ retirement homes, you can find a safe, supportive space for your loved one by asking the nine questions listed further down in this article.

Nursing homes for LGBT seniors

Nursing homes are designed to provide care for seniors with significant physical or mental health conditions that require 24-hour nursing and personal care. These facilities offer the highest level of care for seniors who need medical care but don’t require hospitalization.

Over 5% of nursing home residents identify as LGBTQ+, according to SAGE’s Long-Term Care Equality Index.[09] Since employees will be providing individualized medical and personal care, it’s important to make sure that the nursing home and its staff are LGBTQ-friendly or well-versed in the care of transgender patients, if applicable.

LGBTQ+ memory care

Memory care provides housing and 24-hour care for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. They offer activities and safe environments to improve quality of life, slow cognitive decline, and prevent wandering.

LGBT seniors with memory concerns can experience a particularly challenging set of circumstances, according to the Alzheimer’s Association and SAGE.[10] A memory care facility that’s well-versed in caring for LGBT seniors, especially those who have transitioned, can help.

Here are three unique challenges LGBT seniors with dementia may face, plus ways to cope.

  1. Early memories may resurface. As dementia progresses, newer memories are often replaced with experiences from youth. LGBT seniors may regress to a point where they felt uncomfortable with their identity or had not “come out” yet. Memory care can be affirming. Caregivers with cultural competency training have the tools to calmly reassure LGBT seniors. Memory boxes with photographs and reminders of important life experiences, like news clippings, can help.
  2. Reminiscence therapy may be uncomfortable. Reminiscence therapy is a way to encourage seniors to reflect and reconnect with happy, calming memories. This can be hard for minorities who experienced discrimination or prejudice, especially if it came from friends or family. Find a memory care community that offers one-on-one reminiscence therapy or employs an LGBT-friendly geriatric psychologist. While reliving some memories can be painful, joyful reminiscence is good for everyone.
  3. Transgender seniors may regress to a time before they transitioned. Having to re-experience the dysphoria of assigned gender can be an enormous emotional setback. Lack of familiarity with the body that aligns with a senior’s gender identity can be confusing for everyday tasks, like dressing or going to the bathroom. Transgender and gender-expansive seniors must find affirming memory care. With dementia or other cognitive decline, they may need help administering daily hormones or completing ADLs without confusion. Ensure the staff is familiar with caring for transgender seniors.

Questions to ask while touring to find supportive LGBT retirement communities

“Any retirement community can be LGBT-friendly,” Acquaviva says. Supportive, caring senior living options exist across the country. Depending on where you live, finding assisted living for LGBTQ seniors could take some digging. Consider asking these nine additional questions while filling out our assisted living checklist.

  1. Do you have an antidiscrimination policy? An antidiscrimination policy should be readily visible and include gender and sexual orientation, says Kopp-Richardson. Since both sexual orientation and gender identity are only considered protected classes in 21 states and Washington, D.C., this isn’t a given. It’s a good sign if a community visibly posts its antidiscrimination policy and discusses it in brochures and on tours.
  2. Are there LGBT community organizations or clubs? Many assisted living communities, especially in progressive areas, have resident-led social groups or safe spaces for LGBT seniors. Aging loved ones can express themselves freely and discuss concerns with like-minded individuals.
  3. What are your employee benefits? There’s a strong connection between employee benefit policies and affirming treatment of LGBT seniors, says Kopp-Richardson. If a community offers equal benefits, support for LGBT staff, and health care benefits that positively affect transgender employees, it’s more likely that the community will be affirming toward its residents.
  4. Does your staff have experience caring for LGBT seniors? If the community dismisses your question or says they haven’t worked with anyone who identifies as LGBT, that’s a red flag. Open, candid conversations between LGBT seniors and staff before moving in are a must.
  5. What are your cohabitation policies? Some communities only allow married couples to cohabitate and define marriage as between one man and one woman. Though the Supreme Court ruled that discrimination against LGBT people is a type of sex discrimination in 2020, some communities may not readily accept the cohabitation of same-sex couples.
  6. Do you have events that celebrate minorities? If the community doesn’t have a large LGBT population, ask about the acceptance of different races and religions. Is there a focus on inclusivity? Are there celebrations of various cultural holidays and events? Maybe you or your senior family member could start events and begin new traditions that foster a space for the LGBT community.
  7. Do personal beliefs affect staff interaction? If you’re touring a religiously affiliated community, ask about staff and residents, not just community policy. That said, many religious communities do offer safe, supportive housing for LGBT seniors.
  8. Have you received cultural competency or antidiscrimination training? SAGECare offers training to help providers create LGBT-affirming communities. They offer cultural competency resources on their website and have trained more than 87,000 senior care professionals nationwide. “Cultural competency is the idea that LGBT older people are as deserving of compassionate elder care as anyone else,” says Kopp-Richardson.
  9. Do you respect durable power of attorney and chosen family? Nearly 20% of assisted living and memory care communities bypassed LGBT residents’ partner/spouse and contacted biological family members in emergencies, according to the Journal of Palliative Medicine study. Staff should be aware of durable powers of attorney and respect same-sex partnerships.[11]

Discussing these questions will help you and your loved one find a community that makes LGBT seniors feel safe, supported, and comfortable, and can give you confidence that gender identity and sexual orientation will be respected.

A growing future for LGBT retirement communities and senior housing

The right senior living fit can improve health and quality of life, benefits that should be accessible to everyone. As the population ages, the number of LGBT-affirming senior housing options is growing.

Atria, one of the country’s largest senior living providers and an A Place for Mom partner, plans to break ground this year on a San Francisco senior community designed to cater primarily to LGBT seniors. But LGBT-friendly senior living isn’t only available in large urban areas. SAGE regularly updates this map of LGBT-friendly senior living across the country. Cultural competency training is growing nationwide, with credentialed providers in 48 states.

Read on below to learn more about the best communities and destinations for LGBTQ retirement communities.

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LGBT-friendly senior living communities

The communities below are either known for their LGBT-specific senior living options or have received Platinum-level SAGECares cultural competency training. To search for more communities with this accreditation, check out SAGE’s provider database.

A Place for Mom can help you and your loved one find the perfect senior living fit regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. Reach out to our Senior Living Advisors for an open conversation about LGBT-affirming senior living options in your area.

Stonewall Gardens Assisted Living for LGBT Seniors & Friends in Palm Springs, California

Stonewall Gardens is an assisted living community designed specifically for LGBT seniors and allies. Operated by Northstar Senior Living, the facility boasts supportive, experienced 24-hour staff, chef-designed dining menus, and a wide range of outings and activities.

Fountaingrove Lodge in Santa Rosa, California

Situated on 10 acres of lush landscaping in the center of wine country, Fountaingrove Lodge is a haven for LGBT seniors seeking a low-maintenance lifestyle. They offer ADL assistance, chef-prepared meals, and housekeeping services, as well as unique perks like a golf course and sweeping mountain vistas.

The Palms of Manasota in Palmetto, Florida

The Palms is well-known as one of the first gay and lesbian retirement communities to open in the U.S. With stand-alone homes, condos, and duplex options, it’s a great option for active seniors who wish to enjoy retirement in a vibrant, beachy, LGBTQ+ retirement community.

Grace Ridge in Morganton, North Carolina

Grace Ridge offers a safe, supportive environment for LGBT seniors. With a SAGECare credential, this community is committed to promoting every senior’s ability to express themselves freely and share who they are.

Armbrook Village in Westfield, Massachusetts

Offering independent and assisted living as well as memory care, Armbrook Village is prepared to support seniors through every stage of aging. A recipient of a platinum-level SAGECare credential, they’re committed to offering a safe space for LGBT seniors along with amenities like restaurant-style dining, and unique Compass Memory Support programs for seniors with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

Brookdale Battery Park City in New York City

This Brookdale community offers independent living just off the Hudson River, near The Winter Garden and The Statue of Liberty. This SAGECare-credentialed community is immersed in classic New York culture and offers amenities such as an indoor pool, arts and crafts studio, and a wide range of activities.

Compass on the Bay in Boston

Located in a comfortable, residential setting, Compass on the Bay offers memory support services for seniors with all memory care needs, from mild cognitive decline to a late-stage dementia diagnosis. Families of LGBT seniors with dementia can feel confident that care providers are trained and certified in the unique needs of LGBT seniors requiring memory care.

Ingleside in Washington, D.C. and Maryland (3 certified locations)

Three Ingleside communities across Maryland and the District of Columbia have received platinum-level SAGECare credentials. As continuing care retirement communities, these facilities offer support for seniors from retirement through around-the-clock nursing care. They offer an affirming retirement option for LGBT seniors, coupled with proximity to bustling city life and a variety of amenities.

Joshua Springs Senior Living in Bullhead City, Arizona

This Watermark Retirement community offers assisted living and memory care in a beautiful desert setting. Staff members and care aides have received cultural competency training, and the variety of amenities and activities help LGBT seniors live in a secure, affirming space.

Lakeside Park in Oakland, California

Lakeside Park offers homey studios and one-bedroom apartments to seniors experiencing cognitive decline. Located just miles from San Francisco, this community provides around-the-clock care, as well as unique programs like gardening, virtual reality, and courses through Watermark University. Nurses and care aides receive platinum-level cultural competence training, meaning they can guide your LGBT senior relative throughout their dementia journey.

Legacy Communities in New York

Seven Legacy communities in the state of New York, all managed by Watermark Retirement Communities, have received platinum-level SAGECare credentials in 2022. These charming residential communities offer privacy and independence, as well as libraries, dining programs, guest suites, and a variety of planned activities.

Seasons Hospice and Palliative Care (33 certified locations)

Hospice and palliative care services aren’t the same as assisted living communities or retirement homes. Hospice is a service that provides care and comfort to seniors who doctors have estimated have six or fewer months to live. However, it’s worth noting Seasons Hospice and Palliative Care’s exceptional commitment to the safety and well-being of LGBTQ+ seniors, with more than 30 locations across the U.S. receiving platinum-level cultural competency training.

The Silvercrest Center in Briarwood, New York

The Silvercrest Center offers rehab and skilled nursing services in suburban Queens. Their staff and care aides are trained in cultural competency and prepared to offer around-the-clock care to seniors in need of assistance with ADLs, medication management, and more.

Sunrise Senior Living (8 certified locations)

Sunrise Senior Living, a major U.S. assisted living provider and A Place for Mom partner, has committed to LGBT senior living. Many of their communities have basic cultural competency training, while eight have platinum-level certification.

Triangle Square Senior Apartments in Los Angeles

Triangle Square Apartments is the nation’s first affordable LGBT senior housing development of private, individual apartment homes. Located in historic Hollywood, the community offers housing to lower-income seniors. Most notably, over one-third of their rooms are reserved for elders living with HIV/AIDS. Because of the specialized and income-restricted nature of this community, there’s often a long waiting list for accommodations.

Birds of a Feather in Pecos, New Mexico

Located in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Birds of a Feather offers a peaceful, rural environment seeped in New Mexico culture. They offer homes, casitas, and energy-efficient units for LGBTQ+ seniors who seek a relaxing retirement.

The Pryde in Boston, Massachusetts

The nonprofit LGBTQ Senior Housing Inc. broke ground on The Pryde in June 2022. This mixed-income senior living development will offer 74 LGBT-welcoming independent living apartments.[12]

2022’s most LGBT-friendly cities for seniors

An infographic showing a rainbow over a city and listing 2022's top 5 LGBTQ-friendly cities for seniors

While LGBTQ retirement communities exist in many cities if you know where to look, these locations are well-known for their gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities.

1.         San Francisco, California

Well-known as one of the most LGBTQ-friendly cities in the U.S., San Francisco ranks highly in equality, health care access, and community support services, according to LawnStarter’s comprehensive ranking methodologies. Plus, its rich history and mild climate make it ideal for retirees.[13]

  • Health care access, support groups, and a low sexuality and gender-based crime index all make San Francisco a top choice for LGBT retirement communities.
  • San Francisco has long been a mecca for LGBTQ adults seeking a safe, accepting place to live. Because of this, there are many established communities that cater specifically to seniors.

2.         Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Sunny Florida immediately comes to mind as a destination for retirees. But Fort Lauderdale is also a great location for LGBT retirement communities.

  • Fort Lauderdale has the most same-sex households per 1,000 of any U.S. city. It also has the most LGBT+ social groups.
  • Many seniors choose to retire to Florida for its warm climate and vibrant elderly social scene. In addition to LGBTQ+ support systems, it offers a wide-reaching health care and activity network for older adults.

3.         Orlando, Florida

Orlando, another Florida city, also ranks highly on the most LGBT-friendly retirement destinations for seniors. Not only is it consistently listed as one of the best places for aging seniors, but it’s also ranked as the third best city for LGBT adults by LawnStarter.

  • Orlando has the most support and resource centers per 100,000 residents of any U.S. city. They also have plenty of pride month activities geared toward all ages.
  • As a top retirement destination, Orlando offers excellent health care providers and a number of gay and lesbian retirement communities.

4.         New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans has long been a diverse city when it comes to gender expression and sexuality. Over 5% of the city’s population identifies as LGBTQ+, one of the largest percentages in the U.S. While New Orleans may not seem like a top retirement community destination, it’s cost-friendly and culturally diverse.

  • The cost of senior living, including LGBT retirement communities, is lower in New Orleans than it is in many other major U.S. cities.
  • The organization NOAGE was founded in New Orleans to support and advocate for LGBT+ elders. They offer resources, activities, and housing assistance.

5.         Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia is a great choice for seniors who want to retire in the Northeast. With a well-established LGBTQ+ community and all the health care benefits of a large city, older adults can find LGBT retirement communities to meet their needs.

  • The LGBT Elder Initiative, founded in Philadelphia, ensures older adults have the resources needed to lead a vibrant, open, and well-supported life. They offer regular programs and events as well as advocacy assistance.
  • Philadelphia boasts several prominent research hospitals and medical centers, including Jefferson Health, which has health initiatives and trainings specifically geared toward LGBTQ+ older adults.
  1. American Psychological Association. (2013). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender aging.

  2. Brier, M.S. (2021, May 14). What’s ahead for LGBTQ senior housing? Forbes.

  3. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (2015, December 1). Obergfell v. Hodges.

  4. Social Security Administration. (2022, May). Survivors benefits for same-sex partners and spouses.

  5. Bogle, D. (2022, March 31). Social Security to offer self-attestation of sex marker in Social Security Number records. Social Security Administration.

  6. Alzheimer’s Association. Issue brief: LGBT and dementia.

  7. Stein, G.L., Berkman, C., O’Mahony, S., Godfrey, D., Javier, N.M., & Maingi, S. (2022, June). Experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender patients and families in hospice and palliative care: perspectives of the palliative care team. Journal of Palliative Medicine.

  8. LGBTQ Senior Housing. (2022). The Pryde breaks ground.

  9. LawnStarter. (2022, June 15). 2022’s Most LGBT-friendly cities.

Meet the Author
Claire Samuels

Claire Samuels is a senior copywriter at A Place for Mom. She’s written or contributed to more than 100 articles about senior living and healthy aging, with a special focus on dementia and memory care. Before writing about seniors, she worked as an account executive for independent and assisted living facilities across the Midwest. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Davidson College, where she focused on literature and media studies.

Edited by

Danny Szlauderbach

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