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Prell: Being an LGBTQ senior in Illinois prompts concern

Jennifer Prell
Jennifer Prell

There are many senior communities in Illinois that now are providing education regarding seniors who are part of the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and more) community. Senior communities are accepting of all individuals who want to move in.

That said, you are indeed moving to a community that will include people of varying lifestyle choices.

Careful research is a critical first step toward finding communities that have LGBTQ individuals residing there. You should narrow down the geographic area in which you want to live, and find communities that are open and welcoming.

In our work, we have learned that living in a senior community either can be a wonderful or an awful experience if the research is flawed or not done correctly. Do your homework. Contact an agency such as Elderwerks Educational Services to help you identify the senior communities that have residents who are more open-minded and accepting, and ask candid questions.

There are senior communities that openly say they welcome the LGBTQ+ community. Others have a population of residents who naturally came together and developed an environment of mutual trust and acceptance.

If you are interested in living in a community with like-minded individuals, secure a list of four or five communities that you can tour. When you visit, make it a point to speak with staff, residents and other people on-site to see how they react. Basic conversation can be an indicator of a welcoming atmosphere, which is something you’ll surely want in a place where you’ll be spending most of your days.

It’s also a good idea to tour a second time at a different part of the day to see if there are changes in attitude by other people you encounter. In the end, your intuition will be the measure by which your decision is made. Gather your own facts, ask many questions and avoid relying on well-intentioned advice offered by neighbors and people weighing in on websites or blogs.

• Jennifer Prell is president of Elderwerks Educational Services, a nonprofit offering complimentary information, referrals and guidance to older adults, seniors and their families. For information, visit elderwerks.org or call 855-462-0100 for personal assistance.

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