Pride Month – Welcoming and Supporting LGBTQ+ Baby Boomers and Beyond

LifeCircles began its journey of breaking down barriers for those in the 65+ community since 2009, but the work doesn’t stop at care. It begins with inclusion. We spoke to Phil McPherson, Director of Program Integrity at LifeCircles, about why inclusivity matters in the at-home care industry and how LifeCircles engages LGBTQ+ participants in all aspects of care. 

For LGBTQ+ members belonging to the Baby Boomer generation, a tremendous amount of societal change has occurred in their lifetime. From early memories of Stonewall to the legalization of same-sex marriage, this generation fought for a better future. As a new chapter of their lives approaches, baby boomers in the LGBTQ+ community are wondering how the senior living industry will be equipped to handle the anxieties of aging along with LGBTQ+ orientation. 

LifeCircles PACE at The Muskegon PRIDE Parade

Exercising Equity within Inclusivity. 

An approaching barrier for aging in the LGBTQ+ community is feeling welcomed and supported as they find a need for in-home assistance. Realistically, fewer than 20% of LGBTQ+ seniors are comfortable with being open about their sexual orientation in long-term care facilities. Many fear the discrimination they either endured or witnessed in the past, and that sentiment is transcended into a fear of hiring in-home care help to be revisited by those memories. Phil goes on to say, “They want to stay in their homes because they were brought up in an environment where they had no other place to go.” Instead of removing them from their environment, LifeCircles is bringing community to participants who did not have the luxury of being able to express their true identity in the past. 

Staff Training 

Coming from a DEI background, Phil has been dedicated to updating and supporting DEI training programs for all LifeCircles staff members. “DEI training does not stop after a program ends; it’s an ongoing journey, and we are constantly learning from each other on how to be better humans.” Phil has dedicated his life to creating an equitable approach to at-home care, but the commitment extends beyond him. For Phil, the first step in welcoming others is having a well-trained staff prepared for all situations. 

Implicit bias training and PACE programs have offered Phil’s staff a toolkit for empathy and organizational sensitivity. “Having a diverse team is also really important, and it makes our team stronger as individuals,” according to Phil. This certification goes beyond education. For Phil, it reiterates how these types of training reaffirm a staff commitment to inclusivity. 

Identifying Barriers

A look into inclusive practices, Phil highlights how important data collection on LGBTQ+ populations is to address the needs of the queer community in Michigan. Through a partnership with Muskegon County, LifeCircles is conducting a survey to learn more about the well-being of LGBTQ+ individuals in Muskegon. “We know there are barriers, but we’re not sure what they are.” Through data collection, those concerns can be addressed. Proactive steps such as surveys and questionnaires are among the best ways LifeCircles and other care organizations can make steps towards equitable, welcoming, and all-encompassing care. 

If you’re interested in learning more or sharing the survey, we encourage you to check it out here

Phil McPherson, leading LifeCircles in the Muskegon PRIDE Parade

Celebrating Identity Through Building Community 

With an often overlooked community, tailored programs and support are one way to confront the concerns of isolation and loneliness. Half of LGBTQ+ people 45 years and older report feeling lonely, compared to 33% of the general population, according to an AARP study. To combat loneliness and foster a welcoming community, LifeCircles has tailored services that include social activities that promote community and healthcare services that respect and uphold every participant’s identity. 

From attending the Tulip Time Parade in Holland to taking LifeCircles participants to the Muskegon Juneteenth Parade, fun is written all over LifeCircle’s social activities. The enjoyment of being involved and celebrating a community that one can identify with is one of the greatest feelings, according to Phil. “Their smiles are contagious, and it really reaffirms the work we do at LifeCircles.” Facilitating opportunities to take participants on outings of that magnitude has built a robust community for a population that has faced so much isolation. While Phil is inclined to say these are small steps toward inclusivity, his work brings joy and restores a sense of community that was non-existent when LifeCircles participants were growing up.  For a generation that worked so hard to claim a space of safety and peace, LifeCircles is truly about giving back to this robust community in the same way. Phil notes that starts with respect for the building blocks of inclusivity to be laid. “Through eliminating triggers of the past to increase present-day quality of life, we can reduce invisible barriers in the 65+ care industry”. For Phil, giving back to this community is important and sets a precedent for the Senior Care industry. With the help of Phil and his work with LifeCircles, strategies such as these offer care that can create a welcoming environment, ensuring that everyone feels respected, valued, and supported as they age.

LifeCircles PACE Particpants enjoying Community at The Taking Back Muskegon’s Juneteenth Parade.
Last Updated on July 19, 2024