Compared to a lot of places, Madison is a pretty easy place to be openly gay. But that sense of freedom can be fleeting, especially for seniors who move to retirement communities only to find that they are the only out gay or lesbian resident around.
“They have to go back in the closet,” says Caroline Werner, who works part-time as the LGBT senior advocate at OutReach, an educational and advocacy center for Madison’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Those who do try to be themselves often feel judged and ostracized by residents and staff, adds Werner, who conducts sensitivity trainings for agencies in Madison that serve seniors.
That’s why Werner and John Steines would love to see senior housing included in the mix at Union Corners, the large lot at the corner of East Washington Avenue and Milwaukee Street that is now being developed by Gorman & Co.after a decade of delays. “We are seeking an integrated setting, but a place that is intentionally welcoming,” says Steines, who has been a key player in developing a neighborhood wish list for how Union Corners would get built out.”There has to be someplace where we can be healthy and happy,” adds Werner.
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