Planned Fenway Gay Retirement Community Faces Foreclosure
As the baby boomers enter their retirement years, the services geared toward elder needs will have to adapt to accommodate them. Any demographic as large as the boomers will inevitably include a large GLBT contingent, so services for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender seniors will also need to adapt or develop; already, stories of elders facing discrimination and abuse because of their sexuality are coming to light.
One innovation that might address the needs of GLBT seniors is the concept of the retirement community for sexual minorities--assisted living facilities or communal living situations where elder gays can be assured that they will be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.
But though several GLBT elder communities have been planned, they face rough going. A case in point: a Boston-based community for GLBTs over the age of 55 that would have been the first of its kind in New England seems to have gone belly-up without ever even breaking ground. The Boston Herald reported on May 18 that the company behind the proposed GLBT senior community, Stonewall Miner LLC, will be subjected to a foreclosure auction next month.
The company was a joint venture undertaken by Stonewall Communities and the Boston-based Abbott Development, the article said. The company had purchased property near Boston’s Fenway neighborhood four years ago for development into a 53-unit planned community for GLBT elders, but the project seemingly stalled and went into tax delinquency.
For any development project, cash flow is key. But given that so many GLBT elders feel unsure or unsafe in elder care communities or assisted living facilities that serve a general populace, are gay-specific communities the wave of the future?
If so, the wave seems slow in gathering momentum. But that doesn’t mean a need doesn’t exist: an October 2007, New York Times article reported that GLBT elders frequently encounter homophobia, social isolation, and even abuse in elder care facilities. One senior citizen named Gloria Donadello, a lesbian in her 80s who came out to her fellow residents at an assisted living facility in Santa Fe, New Mexico, found herself frozen out of the limited social fabric of the facility. It was isolating; it drove her, the Times article said, into a depression.
The same article recounted how a gay man in a senior care facility in an East Coast city was removed from the general population of healthy, lucid seniors because other residents, and their families, protested his presence. The man was warehoused in a section of the facility for patients suffering from dementia; before more suitable accommodations could be arranged for him, the man, who had no family, hung himself.
That article went on to report that a facility in Chelsea, Massachusetts, scheduled to be built as part of the existing Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home, would include a section for gay and lesbian seniors, where they need not fear social isolation or, more terrifying still, inadequate care from staff who might treat them badly because of their sexualities.
It’s an idea whose time has come, or is about to arrive, but not in the form of a landscape-altering wave. Rather, senior care for the GLBT community seems to be arriving piecemeal, in fits and starts.
An article from the Oregonian published on March 14, 2008, reported on an attempt by gay real estate businessman Henry Moshberger, 65, to establish Rainbow Vista, a facility meant to serve as "a retirement home for me and all my friends." But the facility’s sole residents at the start were two heterosexuals; no groundswell of gay elders flocked to fill the rooms of the facility, located in conservative Gresham, Oregon. Location might have played a role: Daniel Torrence, the co-chairman of Senior Housing and Retirement Enterprises (SHARE), which has been committed to senior GLBT housing for nearly a decade, said that although his group had considered a partnership with Moshberger, the facility’s placement was problematic.