Nancy Weinbeck
Nancy Weinbeck

Pride month may be coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean our support for the LGBTQ+ community should too.

When Bayview opened its doors in 1961, there were few communities where individuals could feel safe and comfortable expressing their authentic selves, especially those who did not fit in to society’s expectations of gender roles and sexual preferences. Tragically, it took the Stonewall riots and later the AIDS crisis to spark change for those who identified as LGBTQ+.

Although our nation has taken steps towards the path of equality, we continue to see lower percentages of LGBTQ identification among older generations. According to Gallup’s 2020 poll, about 2 percent or less of Americans 56 and older identify as LGBTQ versus about 6 percent of the general U.S. population. Not surprisingly when I began my career at Bayview 20 years ago, we had no openly gay or lesbian residents. A few had come out to certain staff and residents privately, but there were others who never did. We welcomed same sex friends moving in together; we didn’t ask and they didn’t tell.

Research has uncovered health disparities in older LGBTQ adults, some of which was attributed to fear of discrimination in accessing healthcare, lack of children for support as they age, lack of social outlets, and lack of access to housing and services. The risk of social isolation is greater in the older LGBTQ community, and we have all learned through COVID the negative impact that social isolation has on health and wellbeing.  Elders should not have to go back into the closet to receive equitable and quality services and support.

The good news is that the tide is turning. I believe Bayview offers a preview for what healthy aging among the LGBTQ community of elders can look like. We now have many residents who identify as LGBTQ, some single, some married, some couples. They are actively engaged in resident life, some are engaged in positions of leadership in our Resident Council, others are participating in as well as leading a variety of committees and programs.

While we are proud of our welcoming and open community and excited for the changes we are seeing in the senior living landscape, challenges remain. We know we still have work to do to become truly inclusive and equitable across all fronts. Are we there yet? The answer is an evolving one - but no. Will we get there? Yes. No matter the challenges we face, we will always stand by our residents and staff and move forward headstrong to this worthy future. Happy Pride Month everyone and may you all stay safe, well, strong and true.

­

— Nancy Weinbeck is the CEO of Bayview in Queen Anne.