Inside the First Affordable LGBT-Welcoming Senior Housing in the Bay Area

Karyn Skultety, Openhouse Executive Director: Let’s remember that LGBT seniors are the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. These are the people who, for people like me, means I don’t have to think as much, about my rights every morning when I wake up. It’s an honor for us to serve them in any way; it’s an honor for us to make them a part of our community, and that has to be where we start.

The thing we are most known for, and that we are incredibly proud of, is we have co-developed with Mercy Housing the first affordable welcoming LGBT welcoming Senior Housing in the Bay Area. So right upstairs from where we are sitting there are 40 units of affordable LGBT welcoming senior housing and we’re working on building more.

Ron Cordova, Openhouse resident: Like, I wouldn’t never let anyone into my room where I used to live because I didn’t trust anyone. Suddenly I have this community that I’m engaged with. Like just having coffee this morning and hanging out with them with like, no agenda, I mean, you can make people laugh or if you are having a hard time, you know people are there to support you. I feel a lot of support here.

Skultety: So over 50% of people living in America right now with HIV are over the age of 50.

Cordova: My needs are different as a long term survivor of HIV because I have HIV.

Skultety: Which means we haven’t thought about the typical chronic health conditions that we see with aging and how they are going to interact or work with people with HIV.

Cordova:.You know, there’s gay marriage now but my orientation as a young gay person, that seemed like a far fetched idea. So a lot of us aren’t partnered and stuff.

Skultety: LGBT seniors are more likely to live alone so 60%, for example, in San Francisco live by themselves, there are much less likely to have children of their own or to have support from their biological family.

We know that people deserve to age with communities of support around them.

One of the events that we hosted during pride this year was LGBT senior prom. So I told people you can do this nothing like your actual senior prom was.

Cordova: I’m excited and I’m involved in a lot of things here. I facilitate an arts group for seniors on Saturdays. LGBT seniors from all over the city, not just this building. We have all these art supplies and we just make art. It’s like it’s fulfilling that need to have some sort of purpose for me. And, I just can’t tell you how nice that is, to have that because, you know, is like, you get old, what happens? Is like, finally the rest of my life is going to be comfortable and productive and happy and you know, full, and I’ll have companions, you know, around.

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