About two and a half years ago, Edith Lederberg, executive director of the Area Agency on Aging in Broward County, Fla., became inspired to start a gay and lesbian adult day care center for frail elders in Ft. Lauderdale and began looking for a suitable location.
goal was to find a place that would feel like home to members, not in the middle of the city but in a residential area surrounded by homes and gardens.
Broward County has a large number of elders, with about 175,000 seniors over 75.
Consequently, adult day care is a critical need, Lederberg
"I think we have more day care programs in Broward County than probably any other county in the country."
When word got out about the agency's plan, it received media attention from all over the world.
As it turned out, Lederberg
told GT, hers would be the first such program anywhere, including San Francisco and New York's Greenwich Village.
added, "I was surprised and amazed, truthfully.
What is the gay and lesbian population doing with the frail elders?"
Gay and lesbian seniors are having problems in nursing homes, which frequently separate partners, and very few congregate living facilities cater to the gay population, she
"It just surprised me that no one had ever done this."
Lederberg estimates that Broward County has about 40,000 openly gay and lesbian residents, plus a significant number of gay and lesbian seniors who have never made their sexual preferences known to the community at large.
Many of those closeted seniors, she
said, are either living alone or with partners who are taking on the burden of caregiving without additional supports.
The Sunshine Cathedral
, a Ft. Lauderdale church that serves the gay and lesbian community, owned two buildings on its property that Lederberg
felt had the potential to be converted into a day care center.
However, because of special zoning laws and various bureaucratic hurdles, the process of actually opening the center has taken much longer than expected.