When Bud, an elderly gay man who lives in a Rochester-area residential community for seniors, posted news clippings outside his door regarding same-sex marriage, the reaction he got from other residents was not overwhelmingly positive.
"Some of the pictures were taken down," he says. "Once someone pinned note paper covering over a picture." reports a wonderful special in the Rochester City Newspaper
It was a little intimidating, Bud says. It’s also an example of a culture that can be deeply entrenched in some traditional nursing and assisted-living homes: prejudice that can have a profound emotional impact on elderly members of the LGBT community.
Though Bud, who recently celebrated his 84th birthday, is out, he’s still cautious. He lives alone and he asked that his last name not be printed.
"I’ve always been me," he says. "But I’ve been careful not to out myself to the wrong people."
Bud is certainly not the first gay man to move into a senior-living community. But he is part of a population of seniors that is gradually becoming more visible both nationally and locally.
Gay culture is sometimes criticized for its exaggerated emphasis on youth, but there is growing awareness about older members of the LGBT community – people who have reached their mid-60’s, and are living into their 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. What do we know about them? What are their concerns? Are senior-living communities and nursing homes becoming more accepting of their gay clients? And how do they treat gay couples?
After New York passed same-sex marriage legislation last month, Bud found a message posted outside his door. Someone wrote a note saying, "Congratulations on gay marriage. I’m so proud to live in a state that’s leaning toward equality."
"That really put a smile on my face," he says.
But Bud’s experience of gradual acceptance, though a good sign, is not shared by all LGBT seniors. In some respects, LGBT seniors face the same issues and daily trials that many seniors face: less mobility, limited incomes, and managing illnesses.