Ian Lee Brown is vice president for diversity, inclusion, and belonging at Erickson Senior Living. His leadership has transformed LGBTQ eldercare by creating a culture of honor and dignity for seniors. He gives back through his board service at SAGE, the world’s largest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ elders, as well as his service on Carey Business School’s Dean Alumni Advisory Board.
“In a lot of eldercare communities, the LGBTQ population often feels that they can’t be themselves,” Brown says. “We’ve created an environment at Erickson Senior Living where they can be their truest selves. … Through the SAGE board role, I am able to share the many successes we’ve had at Erickson in creating a culture of belonging for all our residents, including those who are LGBTQ.”
Brown’s passion for LGBTQ eldercare comes from his admiration for the elderly and personal experience as a Black Jamaican immigrant and gay man.
“One day, when I get to the age that I’m selecting a retirement or life-plan community for my husband and me, I want to know that we will be treated with the utmost dignity and respect. But I don’t want to wait until then,” Brown says. “I want people to be able to have that dignity and respect now, as they live their lives.”
As passionate as Brown is about LGBTQ eldercare, he notes that the growing senior-living industry is also exciting for the business opportunities it brings. More senior living organizations are focusing increased attention on the needs of LGBTQ elders. There are good reasons that this is happening. A report by the Williams Institute at UCLA indicates that the population of LGBTQ elders will double by 2030. As this demographic grows, senior housing and care operators—whether continuing-care retirement communities, assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care, or other options—will need to develop policies that state that every resident must be treated with respect and dignity. But not only that, they must have the behavioral practices to support the policies.
Brown is leading innovations in LGBTQ eldercare and raising the profile of the issue through his service on the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School’s Underrepresented Minority Advisory Committee to which he was recently appointed. Brown participates in the school’s student mentoring program and serves in an advisory capacity to the school’s leadership as a member of the the Carey Development Office Career Committee.
“There is an opportunity for folks who are in business and for recent business school graduates to see senior living as a robust career path,” Brown said. “You can have significant impact helping people live better lives, no matter their background, all while making a living yourself. You can do good while building a successful business.”