Last week, West Palm Beach was named the second “most accommodating” city for LGBT seniors in the nation.
SeniorAdvice.com, a senior housing referral site, cited West Palm Beach as runner-up in its third-annual list that highlights thefor many reasons. Namely, its trove of groups and services, long list of LGBT legislation and elected officials, and its perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s .
Julie Seaver, the executive director of Compass, said, “The LGBT senior population — a large and growing one — has unique needs due to a lifetime of discrimination, harassment and historical trauma.”
Compass, the LGBT community center of the Palm Beaches, is one of the many resources that SeniorAdvice.com looked at while ranking cities. Other resources the site applauded were Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, Palm Beach County National Organization for Women, Equality Florida, Gay Polo League, and more.
West Palm Beach finished only behind New Orleans. Two other Florida cities made the cut: Fort Lauderdale (No. 7) and Tampa (No. 10). Of the three years SeniorAdvice.com has released the list, this is the first time West Palm Beach ranked.
SeniorAdvice.com said its results were based on a system called , an in-house algorithm that takes into account factors like Medicare, LGBT population, safety, and more. Unlike past years, this list accounts for small and medium-sized cities and not just large cities.
"For more than three decades, elected officials in West Palm Beach have worked together with community leaders, nonprofit organizations and dedicated volunteers to ensure that our city is one of the best places in the country for LGBTQ people to live, study, work, create families, socialize and retire," said Palm Beach County Human Rights Council President Rand Hoch. "It is encouraging that their efforts on behalf of LGBTQ seniors have been acknowledged."
Despite Palm Beach County’s impressive ranking, advocates and organizations are still introducing new programs and events to further improve LGBT seniors’ lives. Seaver said that Compass and the PBCHRC are currently creating a new case manager program strictly focusing on senior-related issues.
West Palm Beach also happens to be home to a few notable LGBT senior activists. Ruthie Berman and Connie Kurtz, LGBT activists and a lesbian couple, were both West Palm Beach residents before Kurtz passed away in 2018.
A piece of legislation currently in Congress is named after the couple: the . Its mission is to expand education efforts on specific issues that affect the LGBT senior community from the local level to state and national levels.
“What’s special about Palm Beach County to me is that there are places in the community that you can reach out to,” Berman said. “When Connie died, I would not have survived without BLAST [Bi, Lesbian, and Straight Together Women of West Palm Beach].”
Seaver said although LGBT-specific elderly housing in West Palm Beach currently doesn’t exist, Compass does what it can to educate current housing staff. Compass members visit independent living facilities and home health care workers to give cultural competency trainings, which spread the message that “LGBT older people are as deserving of compassionate elder care as anyone else,” she said.
Those trainings are certified by SAGE, a national elderly LGBT advocacy group, according to Seaver.
“While we have a long way to go in catching up with services for our aging LGBT population, Palm Beach County's weather, cultural arts scene and welcoming attitude has always made it a popular place to find respite in its inclusive environment,” Seaver said.