08 Apr 2022
Supporting and Celebrating Individuality: LGBTQ+ Training and Educational Efforts in NJ
Over the last few years, the Arbor Terrace assisted living communities in New Jersey have embraced the idea of providing LGBTQ+ training for our staff, families and residents. I was led to champion this training after being inspired by a movie I viewed at the Garden State Film Festival (GSFF). The Arbor Company communities have worked closely with the GSFF organization as a sponsor as an advocate for the benefits of fine arts on the aging population. During one of the film blocks, I enjoyed a documentary called Love Wins, a half-hour documentary that captures the union of Emily Sonnessa and Jan Moore through interviews and photographs. The short film tells the tale of this couple who have been together for over 50 years and unveils the realities of falling in love at a time and place when it was considered strictly taboo to do so.
After the showing, I rushed to meet the ladies who created Love Wins, and from that moment on I was inspired to bring education and training to our senior living communities. I wanted to ensure everyone knew our mission and felt welcomed and comfortable in our Arbor communities. We worked closely with the filmmaker Robin Kampf, and stars of the movie, Jan and Emily. Throughout our New Jersey communities we hosted viewing parties where audience members were able to participate in a Q&A session with Robin, Jan and Emily. We invited families, residents, staff, LGBTQ+ organizations, and community politicians to attend, and the events ended with a celebration of Jan and Emily over rainbow cake.
Recently, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy signed legislation establishing specific rights and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, undesignated/non-binary, questioning, queer, and intersex (LGBTQ+I+) older adults and people living with HIV in long-term care (LTC) settings. This legislation includes specific training for LTC staff. Arbor Terrace communities are proud to have taken steps prior to this bill and already initiated training from local LGBTQ+ organizations. The Arbor Company is thrilled to work with SAGECare to provide this very important training for our staff. Our leaders are working with SAGECare to rollout the training to the rest of our staff, and we’ve selected two LGBTQ+ liaisons per community to receive additional training to assist each community along their educational journey.
I meet with the liaisons monthly to brainstorm ideas for upcoming events and additional education. Recently a few of our communities celebrated LGBTQ+ History Day. They enjoyed a variety of programs which included viewing informative LGBTQ+ documentaries, rainbow art therapy, and a festive social with rainbow themed refreshments.
The Arbor Company’s mission has always been to engage and enrich the health and spirit of our residents. For more than three decades, we have put our residents and family members first. Here, we honor individuality and provide personalized attention based on the unique preferences and experiences of those we serve. I am proud to work for a company that understands each person is unique and has a story to tell. We will continue to empower all to feel comfortable and celebrate individuality.