Born in 1947, in the Dorchester area of Boston, Massachusetts, Marcy Adelman grew up in a tightknit, largely Jewish, community. The multi-generational home in which she was raised taught young Adelman the importance of family supporting senior household members, with respect shown to elderly community members.
That early grounding laid the foundation for Adelman to emerge as a pioneer in the field of LGBQT aging, advocating to provide affordable low-income housing for LGBQT seniors.
Adelman settled in Potrero Hill in the early-1970’s.
“When I first moved to SF I was under the false impression that I was moving to sunny California,” she said. “Instead, what I got was fog horns and clothes that were meant for Southern California. I was miserable. I asked everyone I met, what part of the City is the warmest, which neighborhood has the best weather all year round. The typical response was, “ Potrero Hill, but nobody lives there. It’s too far away from everything.” I finally took the bus to Potrero Hill. It was love at first sight. Moved to the Hill and never looked back. I love my neighbors and the merchants, from grocery stores to restaurants. Every day I appreciate and enjoy the amazing vistas and I never tire of the luxurious microclimate we have here. Potrero Hill is my home.”
Adelman received a doctorate in clinical psychology from the Wright Institute in Berkeley; her dissertation on lesbian and gay aging was the first of its kind. She started the first ever gay and bisexual support group at Mill’s College.
Dr. Adelman opposed homophobia through her private practice and as an activist, among a small group of clinicians that worked successfully to have the American Psychiatric Association remove homosexuality as a mental health disorder from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Dr. Adelman identified an absence of services being provided LGBQT seniors, many of whom didn’t have kids or family to help support them in their later years. With a lack of affordable LGBQT-friendly retirement communities, many LGBQT seniors felt unwelcome in the assisted living facilities that were available. Some returned to the closet in fear of facing discrimination.
In 1998 Dr. Adelman co-founded Rainbow Adult Community Housing with her late partner, social worker and activist, Jeanette Gurevitch. The nonprofit, now known as Openhouse, provides low-income housing for LGBQT seniors, trains service providers to address the specific needs of individuals, and offers other support services.
Taking 19 years to build, Openhouse’s Laguna Street location opened in 2017 with 40 units. Shortly after Dr. Adelman was named Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshal by the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Parade board of directors. She’d previously received the 2008 KQED Community Hero Award and Purpose Prize for entrepreneurs 60 and older. In 2019 another housing facility, 95 Laguna, opened, bearing the name of co-founders Adelman and Gurevitch. Last year, a senior activity center was launched at 75 Laguna. Openhouse now offers 52 studio apartments, 62 one-bedroom units, and seven two-bedroom units to LGBQT seniors.
Adelman presently serves on the San Francisco Aging and Adult Service Commission’s advisory council and has been vice chair of the California Commission on Aging since 2019.
At 75 years-old, she continues her private practice specializing in clinical psychology.
Dr. Adelman’s proudest achievement, though, is “delivering on the promise we made all those years ago.”
That promise, made with her late partner, Gurevitch, was to build and provide affordable housing for a demographic group that’d been largely overlooked.