aging gay....

With so many many of my friends in there 50's and 60's getting closer to retirement I would like to share this article from HERO magazine


GLBT seniors can enjoy new retirement communities

by Gip Plaster
for HERO Magazine

Experts sing the praises of careful financial planning for retirement, but it's just as important to plan a place to live.

For gay seniors, the traditional options often don't work. Couples who have been together for years could be forced to go into the closet if they enter traditional retirement communities, and if nursing home care is needed, they could be forced to separate if they need different levels of care. Single men can find themselves forced back into the closet by a retirement community's assumptions that he is a widower looking for a new (female) love interest.

Straight people can turn to a variety of retirement communities— groups of houses, apartments and nursing home facilities that offer aging people the services they need as they grow older—but until recently, nothing like that has existed for older gays and lesbians.

"My philosophy says if you build it, they're going to come," says Bill Laing, a Florida man who has built the first gay and lesbian retirement community. Trailer parks for older lesbians and similar informal communities exist in several places, but Laing is the first to create a plan and build a retirement community especially for gays and lesbians.

Laing, a retired psychology professor, opened the Palms of Manasota in August 1998. He started it with about $650,000 of his own money, partly inherited from an aunt. While others are now planning communities and working to gather financial backers, Laing has already sold the 14th home in his community, located near Sarasota and St. Petersburg.

A total of 26 private homes will be built as they are sold. Laing has already had to buy some extra land to accommodate a handful more homes than he originally anticipated. He had also planned for about 40 villas (or apartments), but now he plans to build 62. He is also moving ahead earlier than expected with plans for an assisted living facility.

Laing isn't surprised by a number of other gay retirement communities in the works or by the amount of press attention the issue of gay retirement is getting. (It even made the front page of the New York Times last October.) "They can see that's it's going to be successful," he said from the front porch of one of his neighbor's homes in the community. "I never expected this. In a year and a half, we're almost sold out on the first phase."

While Laing is the only one with homes built, the Gay and Lesbian Association of Retiring Persons (GLARP) is well on its way to building a community on the opposite side of the country, on 19 acres near Palm Springs, California. They plan to partner with a major California builder to create a community that includes assisted living and a nursing center. Veronica St. Claire, chief executive of the Los Angeles-based organization, says their community will be unique because it will have views of the Santa Rosa Mountains so beautiful they are "to die for three times over." Something could be ready as early as 2001.

St. Claire and her partner, Mary Thorndal, began GLARP several years ago as the gay version of AARP, a powerful group that offers consumer discounts for older people and is a strong lobbying force in government.

St. Claire says many people she has encountered since co-founding GLARP are in their 40s and 50s and are concerned about what will happen to them when they get older, especially given the current conservative leanings in the political arena. They also want a community where they can feel safe. In addition, St. Claire says many gay and lesbian people are concerned about their future since they don't always have children or relationships with their family.

David Aronstein, the founder and primary partner for Stonewall Communities, envisions a somewhat different sort of gay retirement community. He says people who have lived their whole life in an urban environment will not want to move to secluded estates in the Sun Belt. Instead, he plans a community in Boston that interacts with the neighborhood around it. He envisions a restaurant and perhaps a day care center as part of the project located in the heart of the city.

"People would choose to move into the community. If the time comes that they need some help, it would be brought in and they would not have to move," Aronstein says. They want to avoid creating a "fortress-like" environment, perhaps a reference to Laing's gated community.

Peter Lundberg, a San Francisco-based financial planner, is planning two communities called Our Town—one in northern California and one in southern California. Lundberg is looking into two options for the design of the community. One would include urban residential buildings with an incorporated assisted-living facility and would be either newly built or a renovation of an existing property.

The other option would be more of a resort-like community with a commercial core and a pedestrian-oriented square. Townhouses and detached homes would radiate from this central business area. Balconies and patios would overlook the activity. Lundberg says it could be five years or more before construction will begin, however, because he has not secured investors.

Within a year, Ft. Lauderdale developers Jeffrey Dillon and John DeLeo hope to begin work on an assisted-care high-rise gay and lesbian retirement community with 270 units. They would eventually like to create communities in Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. While they are past the planning stages, they don't have full funding in place yet.

The real funding issue, however, could be for gays with limited financial resources. Most of the communities being considered now require considerable investments. At Laing's community, houses range from around $90,000 to almost $140,000. An apartment in the Ft. Lauderdale high-rise could cost $235,000 or more plus a $2,000 to $4,000 monthly fee.

A New York City group called Senior Action in a Gay Environment(SAGE) is considering a retirement facility there for people of varying incomes. While their plans are not yet made, they say gays and lesbians with lower incomes are an important group to consider. SAGE's director of policy, education and community outreach Sandy Warshaw said the organization wrote a letter of protest to the New York Times after their October story because it failed to mention that all projects in the works now are for people with higher incomes.

Whether for low-income people or not, however, Warshaw said the issue of housing for gay and lesbian retirees is one that will not go away. Like all issues related to aging, though, people still tiptoe delicately when discussing it. "Because of our own internalized ageism, aging issues are still not being discussed. To talk about aging issues is not a favorite topic in the straight community, much less the gay community," she said.

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If this artical intrest you or you would like more information try: = Senior Action in a Gay Environment = the Gay and Lesbian Association of Retiring Persons = look at the palms of manasota website

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