Most people may be familiar with the saying, “if you build it, they will come.” This phrase rang true for resident, Beth Holloway, shortly after Pleasant View Towers, a long-term care facility in St. John’s, raised the pride flag for the first time in the history of long-term care in Newfoundland and Labrador.
It was in June 2015 when Eastern Health made this great stride to recognize Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) individuals. Raising the pride flag for the first time was a symbol of acceptance – it sent a strong message to the LGBTQ community in the province that Eastern Health began the conversation of inclusion.
Stories surrounding this revolutionary embrace spread like wildfire, and when it reached Beth, she knew her difficult decision of choosing which long-term care home to live in was made. Beth recalls feeling both relieved and excited when she first heard this news from a friend. Beth says that “not many homes raised the gay pride flag, and not every place was welcoming towards us.”
Small town gossip
Beth’s apprehension was not unfounded. Growing up homosexual in a small community in Newfoundland, she remembers the cruel behaviour of her peers throughout her youth in the 1960s.
“Being gay in the 60s was a horrible time” says Beth. At that time, being part of the LGBTQ community was completely taboo. She recalls the intolerance, bullying and people making derogatory comments to her – words like “tomboy, queer, dyke or lezzy” was often uttered to her face or behind her back. Because of her sexual orientation, she was left feeling socially isolated, unwelcome and misunderstood, as at the time she was the only person in her town who identified as being LGBTQ.
Forks in the road
However, things started to change for the better when Beth left her hometown to pursue her education. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, a Bachelor of Education degree and a diploma in Community Recreation Leadership. Backed by her educational achievements, Beth worked hard to cultivate a successful career as a successful author and educator.
Still to this day, Beth marvels over how she had a passion for teaching religious studies and sex education in outport Newfoundland. She taught young minds for over 20 years; however, her health took a bad turn when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1992. Not only did Parkinson’s take a toll on her seven-year marriage which ended in divorce, but she also lost contact with many friends when her activity level dwindled as a result of her condition.
As Beth’s illness progressed, she needed to make a very difficult life-changing decision – she had to leave her home and choose a long-term care residence to live in – a place where she could be well cared for, but also lead a quality and happy life. For Beth, her lifelong search for an accepting community was her top priority, so when she heard that Pleasant View Towers had broken ground in becoming an inclusive facility, she knew she had a safe place to go to.
New change, new appreciation
Adjusting to her new life in Pleasant View Towers didn’t come without hiccups. One of the biggest challenges for Beth was giving up her beloved Maltese pooch, Winnie. Beth recalls that it took her some time to get used to the mixture of people and sharing common spaces such as bathrooms, lounges and the dining room. Beth also had to get accustomed to different schedules – she found that she missed socializing with staff who were off for a couple of days following their 12-hour shifts. She was exposed to so many new experiences and people, but Beth soon grew to appreciate and enjoy the community she found herself to be part of.
Not just surviving, but thriving
Today, Beth is an active member of LGBTQ Diversity Committee at Pleasant View Towers. This committee works with staff to establish cultural competencies in providing care and services for LGBTQ residents, partners and their friends. As important, members of the committee work to create a welcoming and safe environment for volunteers, staff and the community at large.
But that’s not all. Beth is involved in the Resident Council and she’s also a member of the resident band – she plays guitar, the harmonica and accordion! However, her favourite pastime is to socialize – Beth is most known to her fellow residents and staff as a beloved entertainer and comedian! Beth can usually be found cruising around the building on her “pride scooter;” chatting with whomever is around; or enjoying a cup of coffee from the café. She loves making people smile and helping them feel good about themselves.
Pride Week at Pleasant View Towers
If you happen to run into Beth in the halls of Pleasant View Towers, she’ll tell you that “if you must live somewhere, this is the place to be!” With so much space to relax, chat with friends or visitors and participate in events, Pleasant View Towers is not just a long-term care facility – it truly is home, sweet home!
Beth and the rest of the LGBTQ Committee members oversee a wealth of activities for residents and staff to enjoy throughout the year. For example, during each day of Pride Week (July 10 – 14) residents can enjoy a pride parade and flag raising celebration; rainbow bingo; rainbow shirt day; a sports day; and an Express Yourself talent show!
Other successful activities that the LGBTQ Diversity Committee has facilitated throughout the year include hosting movie nights, coffee breaks and serving a traditional Newfoundland and Labrador breakfast during staff Spirit Week, which is a week-long celebration filled with games and fun activities. Last but not least, the committee also organizes Christmas concerts. Last year’s concert was called A Gay Old Time – one of the most fun-hearted and well-attended celebrations at Pleasant View Towers to date.
Respect is one of Eastern Health’s five values: we recognize, celebrate and value the uniqueness of each patient, client, resident, employee, discipline, workplace and community, which together, makes up Eastern Health.
Staff and residents at Pleasant View Towers have made significant progress into the world of diversity and inclusion over the last three years. Their hope is for more individuals to come together to create a greater awareness around issues facing the LGBTQ community.
Beth and the LGBTQ Committee at Pleasant View Towers urge other long-term care facilities and personal care homes across Newfoundland and Labrador to not just celebrate acceptance and inclusion during Pride Week, but to respect and appreciate diversity all year long by developing policies around inclusion and providing education sessions for residents, their families and staff.
Together, let’s celebrate our differences; always remember that #loveislove. Happy Pride Week!
This article was written by Stephanie Howlett, resident care manager at Pleasant View Towers in St. John’s.