LGBT Retirement

Gay and Lesbian Retirement Community Trends

In 1969, the Stonewall Riots saw Manhattan’s West Village engulfed in brutality—and many historians mark the events as the beginning of the gay rights movement in the United States. And it was in November of 1978 that Harvey Milk, the San Francisco gay rights advocate, was assassinated along with Mayor George Moscone. The ensuing White Night Riots were also a marker of the changes taking place as members of the gay community made their voices heard. Many of the men and women who marched and fought in these demonstrations are now seeing silver hairs on their heads and wondering where they will be spending their retirement years. And, it seems these seniors are carving out a niche for themselves in retirement the same way they had to in society decades ago—by building communities in which to support and nurture each other.

Here in the Bay Area this new trend in senior housing is being celebrated with last week’s opening of the Barbary Lane Communities at Lake Merritt in Oakland. The independent living community is one of a handful that is geared towards the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. In many ways it is no surprise that the progressive and welcoming Bay Area is one of the handful of locations to house such a community; however, many more are popping up all over America, including some decidedly “red” states.

Gay seniors often face certain issues more commonly than their straight counterparts. Namely, members of the LGBT community are less likely to have adult children to care for them. There is also the issue that some have been ostracized by family members, meaning that overseeing and planning for their care sits squarely on their own shoulders. Also many states, counties or cities do not have domestic partner laws, ensuring gay couples face more red tape in securing benefits for their partners. Even in the gay community, senior-related issues are still relatively unexamined as gay rights efforts have traditionally been youth focused.

Perhaps most importantly, the value of these communities is exactly the same as any type of senior housing—it comes down to making a place where people feel welcome and happy to live. 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. And, living in a place where specific needs and life experiences will be understood is important to all seniors regardless of sexual orientation.

The first LGBT communities were built in the late 1990s and the industry is still nascent. These communities offer independent living and occasionally assisted living, but very few also have skilled nursing care. In the LGBT senior housing market there are a few development companies, such as RainbowVision, but some larger companies known already in the long-term care industry have now joined in. Aegis Senior Living, a well-known West Coast assisted living management company, is currently building a LGBT senior community in Santa Rosa, California. All these companies hope to tap into a market whose potential hasn’t been fully explored. The majority of LGBT senior communities are clustered in states such as Arizona, New Mexico and Florida. Boston, Los Angeles, New York and Palm Springs also are popular sites. (Across the pond, LGBT retirement communities have sprung up in both Amsterdam and Stockholm.) As the long-term care industry grows it should be prove interesting to watch how these communities expand and hopefully flourish.

And that’s just some of what is new,

Lara Belonogoff

over 1 year, said...

As a soon to be social worker, I would love to see more or any low income senior housing made available to all seniors and especially our L..G.B.T. senior community as well. 24 hour nursing care facilities for low income seniors need to be more available and run not by numbers, but with empathy and compassion

over 3 years, said...

Anything is possible with our Creator help I know if we could have cruises and movies, and concerts and actors and that are all coming out we should be able to have assistants with this a wonderful plush place where LBGT can come and be taken care of with dignity, respect and Loved like they are supposed to be. We our Creators children too. My Creator put this on my heart to bring this to everyone that we need help with this we can not do this alone. Together we stand. Divide we fall So here I am A friend of mine sent me a song the other day that say we Can't Change the world and in the words it says Until We Change Ourselves and that is what I am trying to do here in Phoenix. Bring caring loving compassionate people together for a good cause with this new journey for others (Elderly and Disables LGBT) that can be happy and at peace until their Creator takes them home.

over 3 years, said...

I want to open a residential home for the LGBT here in Phoenix Arizona I will need some assistants I have been a CNA for many years and now I would like to give back to my community. I see how hard it is for them and if I can help in any way I am here to help They need a resort just like everyone else in Phoenix Arizona where they can come to rest and be safe.

over 6 years, said...

1. Creating a gay only community is problematical. If it's a very high end community, I suppose it could work. There are very wealthy gay folks, and they already can make their retreats work. For the rest of us, it's a stretch to keep something going financially. However, there are senior communities out there that can be "colonized". Many 55+ communities have good prices for housing. They are located in desirable communities and have nice facilities. Instead of retreating to a gay ghetto, how about creating a gay community within a larger senior complex? That's just what we are doing in my large condo community in Clearwater, FL. The straight seniors here are getting an education about living with us, and we have changed a lot of minds and attitudes. To find out more about my group, go to