UCC’s United Church Homes Asks Obama Administration for Greater Leadership on Issues Facing LGBT Elders
United Church Homes, a large United Church of Christ provider of older adult housing, has joined other leading senior service providers and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations in a letter to the Obama Administration asking that greater attention be placed on the unique needs of LGBT seniors.
“As a population that is too often invisible and whose needs go unmet, LGBT older adults need the support of our federal government,” reads the letter initiated by SAGE (Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders) and addressed to the U.S. Administration of Aging in the Department of Health and Human Services.
Specifically, the letter requests improved data collection on the challenges of LGBT seniors — vital information that impacts the government’s plans on aging and funding formulas.
“There is substantial evidence that the LGBT older adult population has poorer physical and mental health outcomes than their heterosexual and cisgender contemporaries,” the letter emphasizes, citing research by non-governmental organizations. “LGBT elders are more likely to be isolated than their peers, twice as likely to live alone, half as likely to have close relatives to call for help, and four times less likely to have children to assist them.”
With 4,000 residents, United Church of Homes, based in Marion, Ohio, operates 70 residential communities in 10 states and two American Indian reservations. As a UCC ministry, UCH has declared itself to be Open and Affirming (ONA) to the LGBT community and has made advocacy for LGBT seniors a priority issue. At UCH’s 100-year anniversary celebration in July, UCH featured speakers that highlighted LGBT concerns in aging.
“When the UCH board decided to become officially ONA in 2013, we brought SAGE and their training partner in to conduct system-wide LGBT awareness and sensitivity. This included board, senior leadership and front-line staff at all the communities,” said the Rev. Kenneth V. Daniel, president and CEO. “We view SAGE as a critical strategic partner as we create and advance a strategy for advocacy and housing for LGBT seniors.”
United Church Homes has added a rainbow flag insignia, as a sign of LGBT affirmation, at the entrance of each of its facilities and has included the rainbow insignia on its website and all of its printed communication materials. More importantly, a team of UCH facility administrators, directors and staff is working to define and implement standards for all of its health care facilities similar to SAGE’s LGBT-supportive standards for hospitals.
“We signed on to this advocacy letter to the Obama Administration because we believe that LGBT seniors are at risk in accessing care, services, and housing,” Daniel said. “This aligns with our vision, mission and values as well as our governance practice of engaging in advocacy for public policy at the state and national levels.”
United Church Homes is a member of the UCC’s Council for Health and Human Services Ministries, which has also declared itself to be Open and Affirming and urges each of its 400 member ministries to consider doing the same.
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