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How a queer friendly senior home helped an 80-year-old come out

Toronto’s Fudger House celebrates its 50th anniversary

Alf Roberts, president of the resident's council at Fudger House, celebrates the home's 50th anniversary with Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell and Mayor John Tory on Sept 8, 2016. Credit: Arshy Mann/Daily Xtra

When Alf Roberts arrived at Fudger House seven years ago, he was 80 years old and in the closet.

Today, he is not only out and proud — he’s the president of the resident’s council at the LGBT-friendly seniors’ home, located in Toronto.

“The first year I was here was the first time that I ever went into the Pride Parade,” Roberts says.

“But that wasn’t because I didn’t want to,” he says with a chuckle, “but I was a church organist and I was always playing the organ when the parade was on.”

On Sept 8, 2016, Fudger House celebrated its 50th birthday this year. And at its golden anniversary party, many credited Roberts with making the long-term care facility even more open for LGBT residents.

Arshy Mann/Daily Xtra

“Our president and chair have been stalwart in making sure that Fudger House is always well represented,” Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell told the audience.

Lorraine Siu, Fudger House’s administrator for the last 17 years, also gave a shout-out to Roberts.

“I’m very fortunate at Fudger House that Alf is really our spokesperson,” she told Daily Xtra.

Lorraine Siu, administrator at Fudger House, speaks at the golden anniversary celebration.
Arshy Mann/Daily Xtra

Fudger House, which was built in 1965, has become a leader in making senior care more inclusive to LGBT people.

“As residents and staff at this home identified several years ago, many LGBTQ seniors did not consistently feel safe in disclosing their sexual identity or orientation due to fear of discrimination,” said Reg Paul, general manager of Toronto’s long term care homes and services division.

In response, they created a toolkit to help seniors’ homes become more inclusive to queer and trans people.

“I can tell you that the toolkit has been accessed by organizations that serve seniors across Canada and throughout the world,” Paul says.

For Roberts, Fudger House is a place where he can be completely open about his sexual orientation for the first time in life.

“People weren’t as open as they are now,” he says. “Even at a job you had to be careful.”

But it’s different at Fudger House. He points to the annual Pride flag raising and barbecue.

“I’m sure that everyone that comes to the barbecue isn’t gay, but they all joined in anyways,” he says. “It just doesn’t seem to be an issue here.