LGBTQ Older Adults Hope To Encounter Improved Care as Professionals Take Up Inclusiveness and Equity Efforts

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Stormie Foust Maley keeps a purple Post-it note nearby as a reminder of the gathering of Dayspring Villa residents five years ago. Written at the top, “Inclusive Communities.” And then, a list of qualities residents envisioned for the place they call home. Among them:

• Okay to be myself

• Not afraid of judgment

• Know people respect all my identities

• Told by staff they value inclusivity

• Open spaces for conversation

Dayspring Villa sits off West 26th Avenue, behind Francis Heights’ two high-rise apartment buildings between Osceola and Meade Streets. This plot of North Denver stretching up to West 27th Avenue was once owned by the Franciscan Sisters of Wheaton, Illinois. After running an orphanage on the property from 1890 to 1967, the Sisters converted the land’s use to affordable housing. No longer owned by the Sisters, affordable housing remains in the form of Clare Gardens, Francis Heights, and Dayspring Villa. Dayspring Villa sits on a small parcel now owned by Christian Living Communities (CLC), a Colorado-based not-for-profit that runs communities for older adults in Colorado, Indiana and Ohio.

Foust Maley’s role as administrative coordinator at the 70-resident Dayspring Villa took her to a conference called LeadingAge back in 2017. She attended a session given by SAGE, a national organization that has been advocating for LGBTQ+ elders since 1978. Foust Maley learned about resident groups popping up across the country that were modeled on the Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) seen in high schools as early as 1988.

Foust Maley immediately thought of a particular Dayspring Villa resident back at home. And so, when she returned to Denver she asked the resident if he would be interested in a group like what SAGE described. Even if it was just the two of them.

According to AARP’s 2018 report Maintaining Dignity: Understanding and Responding to the Challenges Facing Older LGBT Americans, “Concerns within the LGBT community about long-term care are great, particularly for gender expansive individuals. Majorities cite concerns about neglect, abuse, refused access to services, or harassment. The possibility of being forced to hide one’s identity as a condition of receiving care is a concern for just under half of lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents and for 70% of transgender and gender expansive respondents.”

With an increasing number of studies like this in mind, SAGE, in 2019, launched the Long-Term Care Equality Index (LEI). The LEI is a mechanism for long-term care communities to assess the degree to which their policies and practices are in line with recommended “foundational policies and practices” such as an LGBTQ-inclusive equal visitation policy and an LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination policy. The goal is to understand where your organization currently stands and learn about where you can go from there.

The organization’s SAGECare program, which develops LGBT competency, has trained over 145,000 staff and credentialed 636 organizations in 48 states.

In the years since the seed was planted by SAGE, Dayspring Villa’s LGBT+Friends group has overcome the initial resistance and grown well beyond that first resident. As it turned out, there were a number of residents who became comfortable coming out in the community once the signs that they would be accepted were in place. The group meets monthly, has hosted a range of speakers, and takes field trips to places like The Center on Colfax. And now they’ve celebrated five annual summer Pride gatherings.

The group’s vision for raising staff awareness has taken a gigantic leap forward: the stories of LGBTQ residents and staff are now featured in a training video—funded by the Colorado Health Foundation—that is rolling out across the company this month. Foust Maley collaborated with Carey Candrian, PhD, assistant professor and researcher at the University of Colorado to bring attention to the lives and experiences of LGBTQ residents and to give voice to the values for belonging and inclusiveness held by CLC leadership.

On a recent snowy Friday afternoon in downtown Denver, Foust Maley sat on the other side of the learning equation at a professional conference. Her work at Dayspring Villa was featured as part of the panel “LGBTQ Issues in Residential Care” at the Collaboration in Aging conference Feb.10-11.

Attendees to the session were invited to share what brought them to the topic. They were curious and eager for better understanding. One spoke about a deep belief in person-centered care but was really curious what the issues facing LGBTQ residents would be. Another was looking for the history, the terminology. And one, who was used to being “the only” in many settings as a Black woman, wanted to do what she could to foster a sense of belonging for anyone else having a similar experience.

Nearly 300 professionals had attended sessions over the conference’s two days. They ranged from administrators and managers to nurses, social workers, enrichment directors, caregivers and older adults and their family members. They attended sessions like “The Looming Labor Crisis—Are we thinking about this all wrong?” and “Technology in Resident Engagement” (yes, there were robots).

For each person who attended, there were undoubtedly several seeds planted. Those who attended Foust Maley’s panel took home a host of new vocabulary, better understanding of the lives of LGBTQ elders and pioneers, a tool called the Long-Term Care Equality Index, and the encouragement to start something—even if it’s small—in the settings where they work.

For more about becoming—or finding—an inclusive long-term care community, visit,, and

Kathryn has lived in North Denver and raised two children in the neighborhood, worked at several nonprofits, and volunteered with the Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter. 

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