Dignity Seniors Society was originally the Dignity House Advisory Committee (DHAC) which was founded as a Master of Social Work project of Alex Sangha in September 2012. The Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS) Society was our non-profit partner during our infancy and early establishment. The initial mandate of the DHAC was to develop affordable housing for Gender and Sexually Diverse (GSD) seniors and allies in Vancouver. The community consultations, surveys and feasibility study conducted by the DHAC through Lumina Services and Terra Housing Consultants identified sufficient demographic and income strength to support a variety of senior’s housing options. If the assumed age of a gender/sexually diverse individual wanting to move into a service–enriched project is 70, we estimated that in the City of Vancouver there would be theoretical demand for 380 units. Based on the proportion of survey respondents who indicated incomes under $30,000, at least 114 of those units would require financial subsidies. Overall the final report of the DHAC did not support a single conclusive direction for the committee to pursue in terms of a housing project for GSD seniors in Vancouver. However, an overwhelming number of survey respondents did favour ‘aging in place’, i.e. aging in their own homes with a variety of community supports.
In 2018 the DHAC applied for, and secured, society status under the BC Society Act forming Dignity Seniors Society. The Board of the Society worked hard through 2017/18 to develop a strategic plan that would be effective over the short term, and target the long-term goals of the organization, such as developing GSD senior’s housing projects. The current mission of DSS is:
“DSS strives to provide unique, tailored advocacy and information on health, housing and social supports for seniors in our gender and sexually diverse (*GSD) communities that meet their financial, social and security needs by offering multiple opportunities.”
The strategic focus of the DSS is three-fold:
1. Advocacy for individuals and our communities – develop position papers on housing/ finance/ health which highlight the unique needs and qualities of GSD seniors.
2. Disseminate information for gender and sexually diverse seniors and allies on housing/ finance/ health and end of life planning. Leverage exiting platforms and build collaborative provincial and national networks.
3. Build collaborative links between organizations serving seniors, advocating for the inclusion of gender and sexually diverse seniors - work closely with existing services for gender and sexually diverse seniors such as Trans Care BC, QMUNITY, WESN, HIM etc. Advocate for gender and sexually diversity training in all organizations serving seniors.
The DSS Board will continue to work with the government, BC Housing, City, developers, nonprofits and our communities to explore housing opportunities for GSD seniors in BC, especially subsidised and supported projects. We also realise that housing is a primary concern in BC and are committed to providing community members with information on a range of seniors housing options.
The DSS Board thank you for your past support of our project and welcome you to contact us if you have ideas, suggestions or just a shared passion for GSD seniors work. Please explore our website where you can find more information and details on how to become involved: dignityseniors.com
*Dignity Seniors Society uses the term GSD (Gender and Sexually Diverse) to simplify language, however the term GSD is intended to include all people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, gender diverse, two spirited or any other non-heteronormative identity.