Gay Seniors Gaining More Options for Retirement Communities
Traditional services not geared to LGBT population
As the number of baby boomers turning 65 climbs, so does the number of aging lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender (LGBT) people. Currently, there are an estimated three million LGBT elders, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a figure that will more than double in the next 25 years. But if they don’t want to spend their older years in what are typically heterosexual retirement communities, where will they live as they age if they can’t, or don’t want to, stay in their current home?
“Many in the LGBT community feel that their golden years is no time to be crawling back into the proverbial closet, which many feel is what would happen if they lived in any other type of community,” according to a GilbertGuide.com article. “And living in a place where specific needs and life experiences will be understood is important to all seniors regardless of sexual orientation.”
The MetLife Mature Market Institute’s 2006 “Out and Aging” report on gay and lesbian boomers found that 27% reported “great concern about discrimination as they age.” Less than half expressed strong confidence that health care professionals will treat them “with dignity and respect.” Fears of insensitive and discriminatory treatment by health care professionals are particularly strong among lesbians: 12% said they have “absolutely no confidence that they will be treated respectfully.”
The LGBT community faces difficult issues as they age. The support system isn’t always there. They are less likely to have adult children to care for them, and they may have been ostracized by family members, leaving them to contend with their own care. Without the benefit of domestic partner laws, gay couples face more red tape in securing benefits for their partners.
“Federal programs designed to assist elderly Americans can be ineffective or even irrelevant for LGBT elders,” according to the Task Force’s Web site. “Several studies document widespread homophobia among those entrusted with the care of America’s seniors. Most LGBT elders do not avail themselves of services on which other seniors thrive. . . . As LGBT people grow older, they enter a world of services that may not be familiar with LGBT people.”
And so, they are starting to build retirement communities of their own, to support and nurture one another. Around 25 of them are now open; others are being developed or have been proposed. According to GilbertGuide.com, the majority are clustered in Arizona, New Mexico, and Florida; other popular sites are Boston, Los Angeles, New York, and Palm Springs. Some examples:
- The Palms of Manasota is a “safe, supportive and caring community for gays and lesbians where they [can] live a free and open lifestyle.” It’s located in Palmetto, Florida, between Sarasota and St. Petersburg.
- The Resort on Carefree Boulevard is for women only and is located in Fort Myers, Florida. The community has 278 manufactured home and RV lots in a natural setting.
- RainbowVision Santa Fe in New Mexico is touted as a resort retirement community, but there is no age restriction. There’s a mix of gays and lesbians as well as straight couples.
- Triangle Square in Hollywood, California, was built by Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing, a nonprofit organization dedicated to high-quality, affordable, multicultural housing developments that provide social and recreational services for LGBT older adults.
Some housing projects for gay seniors have been stalled because of the economic crisis. A NewAmericanMedia.com story noted several that have been put on hold: an affordable facility to be built by an organization called Openhouse, in San Francisco; a similar one in Boston, planned by Stonewall Communities; a co-op for seniors to be built by Spirit of the Lakes, part of the United Church of Christ, in Minneapolis; and a senior complex in Sarasota, Florida, to be built by Texas-based Metropolitan Community Church.
Published January 27, 2010
Silver Planet Feature Writer