Gay seniors often isolated — even in "friendly" Palm Springs

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- Assisted living is not in Jim McDivitt's plans.

The spry and sociable 72-year-old seems to view long-term care in the same vein as jail time.

He's not alone. The majority of seniors in assisted living were placed there by their children, said John Redford, executive director of Brookdale Mirage Inn in Rancho Mirage. He's worked in several area senior-care homes.

But McDivitt, like a lot of gay seniors, doesn't have children.

“I have only one other living relative and that's my brother and he lives in Florida,” he said. “I've got a circle of friends; most of them are my age, or over 60.”

When in need, older adults typically turn first to their partners, then to adult family and finally to other relatives, said Brian DeVries, a gerontology researcher and part-time Palm Springs resident. Outside help, then, is a last resort. But LGBT seniors are less likely to be partnered or have children and may be disconnected from their families.

“The last line of defense for heterosexual people is often the first line for LGBT people,” DeVries said.

The burgeoning field of LGBT aging research shows that senior-care homes can be inhospitable environments for the group that is most likely to need them.

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