The Merion Becomes Illinois’ First Credentialed LGBT-friendly Senior Living Community
June 11, 2018
In downtown Evanston, The Merion senior living community is committed to meeting the needs of all older adults, including the growing lesbian, gay and bisexual population. As part of that commitment, The Merion recently became the first senior living community in Illinois to earn a SAGECare credential for successfully completing the training program for LGBT cultural competency.
“We’re proud to be the first in the state to earn this distinction, to demonstrate our inclusive environment and dedication to serve a growing population of older adults,” said Mark Zullo, marketing director of The Merion. “No one should be discriminated against or feel isolated like so many seniors unfortunately do. Our staff is trained to foster a supportive environment.”
Recent studies suggest there are at least 3 million LGBT people 55 and older living in the U.S, and that number is expected to rise to 7 million by 2030. The New York-based Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders (SAGE) organization established its SAGECare training program for senior housing and senior care providers, centered on LGBT cultural competency. The Merion has joined the almost 300 senior care providers nationwide who’ve received the SAGECare credential.
“We at SAGE couldn’t be more pleased about The Merion receiving their Platinum SAGECare Credential,” said SAGECare CEO Tim Johnston. “The leadership at The Merion strongly believes that all of their residents should receive the highest standard of care, and that includes LGBT seniors, and this credential helps them communicate that commitment to the community.”
SAGECare involves a four-hour intensive training session for upper management and one-hour in-person training programs for frontline caregivers and team members, as well as ongoing training and support. The training covers many topics including:
- The needs of LGBT seniors
- Ways to reduce and respond to bias behavior
- Overview of federal protections
- Best practices to help create a supportive environment for current and future older LGBT residents
Zullo began considering SAGECare training after seeing a local report about discrimination against an LGBT senior at another community in Chicago.
“This was terrible to see actually happening within our greater Chicago community,” said Zullo. “I wanted to make sure anyone who lives and works at The Merion never feels discriminated against while at our community. These credentials and training send an important message to our team members, residents and the broader community that we’re a welcoming place for everyone, including the LGBTQ population of older adults.”
“Many LGBT seniors have lived through some pretty horrific discrimination and unequal treatment in their lifetime,” said Britta Larson, senior services director at Center on Halsted. The organization is the largest provider of LGBT services in Chicago, specifically aimed at the senior population.
With the Baby Boomer population rapidly aging, there will be more LGBT older adults. According to recent studies, approximately 56,000 LGBT adults ages 45 and older live in Chicago. Statistically, these seniors are twice as likely to live alone and four times less likely to have children compared with their heterosexual peers.
The Merion and Center on Halsted will team up to meet the needs of LGBT seniors. “It’s important for providers to become more welcoming to these LGBT older adults,” Larson said. “It’s fantastic to see The Merion already taking these initiatives to clearly state they’re welcoming to everyone, and they have the training behind that message.”