September 11, 2023
At The Admiral at the Lake, residents and staff members are empowered to be themselves unapologetically. Year-round, The Admiral prides itself in being inclusive to those who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. But during Pride Month, the everyday celebration of diversity, equity, inclusion, access and belonging (DEIAB) is amplified.
Kicking off in early June of 2022, The Admiral celebrated the LGBTQ+ community. They participated in and hosted programming in honor of Pride Month, waved Pride and Progress flags, and capped off the month-long celebration by marching and dancing in the Chicago Pride Parade. Staff members and residents walked and rode on a float in the parade with local organization partner, Uptown United, and were the only senior living community to be in the parade celebrating.
Resident Ken Irvine (he/him) has enjoyed the freedom to embrace his identity and connect with other LGBTQ+ people thanks in part to The Admiral staff’s efforts to foster an accepting community. “No one is hung up on whether you’re gay or not gay, and I’ve met other people who share my viewpoints,” Ken says. “So, I’m a happy camper here.”
Cultivating a welcoming environment is a cornerstone of The Admiral. The community reinvigorated their approach to DEIAB, as guided by their Strategic Plan which identified the need to expand their commitment to diversity. The Admiral approaches DEIAB as a team effort that is the shared responsibility of the entire community. Leading the charge — but working collaboratively to build consensus across the community — are The Admiral’s DEIAB Ambassadors, comprising residents, staff and board members. The group defined The Admiral’s Cultural Values Statement which ensures everyone understands the intentionality behind DEIAB efforts and illustrates how DEIAB is central to everyday life and operations.
To illustrate this commitment, The Admiral is certified platinum by SAGECare, the country’s oldest and largest non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ+ older adults. This certification signals that the majority of staff have received in-depth training to understand LGBTQ+ elders’ experiences better so they can provide culturally competent service. For example, employees are trained in topics such as creating a welcoming environment for all residents and understanding the culture, needs and concerns of LGBTQ+ older adults.
In addition, a group of residents, staff and board members participated in a cultural values workshop to understand how the group prefers to navigate life, providing insight into how to improve interpersonal effectiveness. The workshop revealed the need to educate further on gender pronouns, which the community quickly accepted and integrated. Numerous forums now emphasize the preferred pronouns of community members, including the welcome board for new staff and residents, and introductions at every meeting.
Staff member Brit Vipham (they/them) echoes the community’s inclusive approach, “We want you to come as you are. You don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not. All we want are kind folks who want to get to know one another and get involved.”
The Admiral is a true pioneer with its focus on DEIAB and goes beyond fulfilling an independent lifestyle and providing long-term care for today’s aging adults in Chicago. The community strives to continually support the LGBTQ+ older adult population and model inclusivity in senior living.