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    Visionary Executive Director Departs San Francisco’s Leading LGBTQ+ Senior Serving Agency

    By Dr. Marcy Adelman–

    Dr. Karyn Skultety, Openhouse’s Executive Director, will be stepping down from her position at the end of May. In her statement to the community, she explained that it was a family decision to move to Colorado. She wrote, “COVID-19 has forced all of us to ask questions about ourselves, our families, and our lives. It has also reminded us how quickly things change. My family and I are privileged in so many ways, and we have managed to maintain that perspective, even amidst the daunting challenges of the past year. Nevertheless, I have been shaped by this pandemic. I have watched my kids struggle. I have gone through a COVID-19 scare with a family member that highlights my role as a caregiver to my parents as they age.”

    She continued, “I love being your executive director. I also love and am called at this time by the person I am outside of my work:  a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and LGBTQ+ chosen family member.”

    Tim Sweeney, Co-Chair of Openhouse’s Board of Directors, said, “We are grateful for Karyn’s fierce and competent leadership over the past four years, which has ensured that the organization possesses the strength, self-sufficiency, and sustainable model of care to embrace this transition. While we are sad to see her leave our family and community, we fully support her need to focus on the changing needs of her immediate and extended family.”

    In the four years Dr. Skultety has been at Openhouse, she has reshaped and reinvigorated the organization by elevating and empowering seniors, expanding services, creating new models of care, and providing the kind of leadership that creates an environment where people feel seen, heard, and cared about. In gratitude, the Openhouse board is honoring Karyn by naming the balcony off the Openhouse Community Activity Center at 75 Laguna the Dr. Karyn Skultety Balcony. 

    Under Karyn’s leadership, Openhouse seniors are honored and celebrated for their many accomplishments, and encouraged and supported to provide their leadership in all aspects of community. Karyn elevates LGBTQ+ seniors at every opportunity and challenges the greater LGBTQ+ community and beyond to do the same. Karyn said to me for the San Francisco Bay Times that “our job and our mission is to look at our LGBTQ+ elders and have the world notice the individuality, beauty, and wisdom that comes with age and with a lifetime of being out as who we truly are. I look forward to welcoming a successor who will continue to center the voices and experiences of the LGBTQ+ seniors we serve.”

    Dr. Skultety, also instituted racial equity training for all board and staff. Karyn understands it is up to leadership to set the bar by being proactive and committing organizational resources to create a space in which everyone can thrive. 

    Dr. Skultety guided the organization, in partnership with Mercy Housing, through the construction of the Openhouse Community Center at 75 Laguna and the 79 new units of housing at 95 Laguna. Together with the 42 apartments at 55 Laguna, these 79 apartments make up a total of 121 apartments welcoming to LGBTQ+ seniors—one of the largest LGBTQ+ senior housing complexes in the country. 

    While Karyn was completing the Openhouse campus at 55 – 95 Laguna, she was also moving the organization forward in providing services to the community. During her time as executive director, Dr. Skultety tripled the number of LGBTQ+ seniors served to more than 3000 community members; this includes both residents of Openhouse’s housing as well as LGBTQ+ older adults from all across the city.

    The variety and number of services grew exponentially, with programs that provide assistance in securing housing, help navigating the often-confusing system of care for older adults and adults with disabilities, to the volunteer-friendly home visitor program as well as a cornucopia of classes for fun, socializing, and education. 

    Also, in partnership with On-Lok, Dr. Skultety developed the country’s first community-based adult day program co-designed for and with LGBTQ+ elders. This is a much-needed program that will include services for seniors who are physically and cognitively challenged. 

    The pandemic delayed the opening of the Openhouse Community Center at 75 Laguna and consequently delayed the opening of this innovative program. The grand opening will hopefully happen sometime later this year, and when it does, the community adult day program will be up and running and the Dr. Karyn Skultety Balcony will be open—a fitting tribute to an exceptional leader, by a grateful community. 

    Dr. Marcy Adelman, a psychologist and LGBTQ+ longevity advocate and policy adviser, oversees the Aging in Community column. She serves on the California Commission on Aging, the Board of the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern California, the California Master Plan on Aging Equity Advisory Committee, and the San Francisco Dignity Fund Oversight and Advisory Committee. She is the Co-Founder of Openhouse, the only San Francisco nonprofit exclusively focused on the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ older adults.

    Published on May 20, 2021