Senior Centers Designed for Gays and Lesbians
Senior centers are coming out, serving the generation of gay men and lesbians who came out in the 1960’s and 70’s. Already, about a dozen senior developments across the country are catering to gays and lesbians. These communities run from middle income, assisted living developments in California, Arizona and Florida to the high end communities in Palm Springs.
Gay baby boomers don’t want to have to hide their sexuality after years of being out, as many are finding out now when they enter a senior center where they are discriminated against in their old age. Some nursing homes are separating the partners of gay and lesbian residents keeping them on separate floors. Others are stigmatized by roommates continually asking to be transferred, thereby opting to hide their gender rather than be alone. The social stigma of being old is bad enough but having to hide your sexual identity after years of being out is too much for gay and lesbians approaching old age today.
As a response to this need in the community, a number of senior centers and assisted living centers have developed serving the gay and lesbian community. Two New York partners of 14 years founded Rainbow Vision, a senior community in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is a 146 unit assisted living facility designed for gay and lesbians. It has the dining room named after Truman Capote, and a cabaret room with a regular schedule of performances. Another complex being developed in New Mexico is called “Birds of a Feather”.
Palm Springs is another great retirement location. Joy Springs, the founder of Rainbow Vision, is planning on developing a community in Palm Springs since it is already a popular spot with gay tourists.
The reasons for an exclusive community are many, say specialists in gay aging issues: Gays over 50 years old, who have experienced stigma and isolation that left them separated from their families do not want to be stuck in a similar community in old age. In addition, the people who are financially insecure and childless are at a further disadvantage. These older gay and lesbians want to feel secure in holding their partner’s hand when they come to visit or engage in like-minded social events.
Judy Dlugacz, founder of the lesbian travel agency Olivia Cruises and Resorts, said these people do not want to return to being dependent on family after many years of independence. They want community in their older age.
Now baby boomers have a way of identifying themselves while finding companionship in old age through communities geared for the gay and lesbian lifestyle that they have enjoyed their whole lives.