Saturday, April 10, 2010

My City Gets A LGBT Retirement Community

Yup, you read that right. A few years ago it was announced that My City.....Santa Rosa was considering building an LGBT retirement community...a most rare of beasts.

The project was initially announced five years ago and immediately saw resistance from the surrounding community in which it was to be built. Since that first anouncement, I had heard nothing more and had assumed that the protest it recieved from the community had overwhelved the developer...Aegis...who packed up and moved somewhere else. Well....I did a double take when I saw in my Edgewire news widgit a story called, "California city Approved Gay Retirement Community". Looking a little further I noticed Santa Rosa was mentioned....I was shocked...Just a few days before I had been thinking about that project and why we had heard nothing more about it. I had assumed it was dead. Not so, it seems.

 Architects rendering of the soon to be built community:



Jay and I were both excited. We were under the mistaken belief that this was the first of its kind and I was all ready to hop on here and crow about it. However, a quick google search on LGBT retirement communities tells a different story. There are a few communities scattered across the country that claim to be LGBT exclusive. "Rainbow Vision" of Santa Fe, New Mexico claims to be the first, though how you can make that claim when there is so little news available on the subject is beyond me. According to gayretirementguide.com there are similar communities in about eleven states in the U.S....who knew?

However, it still does not take away my happiness at the fact that one will be located in my home town.

According to Edgewires account and their source document..my local paper, The Press Democrat...the reason that it took nearly five years to earn city approval is because the developer faced an enormous amount of resistance that ranged from environmental concern to the "not in my neighborhood" kind of people. The Evironmental protests claimed it would "result in the removal of hundreds of trees, intrude into wildlife habitat, generate unwanted traffic resulting in higher greenhouse gas emissions.

Uh huh....and perhaps it would also further threaten the evironment by ripping a hole in space-time and turning all the animals gay. Heres why their line of reasoning in unreasonable...

Whenever you build ANYTHING in Sonoma County you automatically face a hord of people with environmental concerns. Thats a good thing...i'm not judging it...but its also a fact. You can not build a lemonade stand on the street corner without a host of environmental impact studies...but heres the rub

For my ENTIRE upbringing the hills on which the community is to be built were bare but for grass, oak trees, and the occasional ranch house. In the 90's, developers began to notice that they were ignoring a prime piece of real estate overlooking the city and began to develope it in earnest. So up sprang Skyhawk and a whole range of upscale communities with homes whos prices edge above the 1 million mark. At the time of construction a manmade lake and golfcourse were also built to attract those capable of affording those homes.



The retirement community was named Fountaingrove Lodge and will be situated on the back end of that same manmade lake. So the trees to be cut down? Probably planted there to replace the ones cut down for the million dollar home built ten years prior. The species displaced were also displaced by those same homes and where was the outrage then?  I know this first hand because I used to work at a home improvement center at the foot of those hills that catered to the surrounding hillside home owners. They would always come in complaining about how the deer had eaten all their landscaping. "thats because your living in THEIR backyard", I would think to myself, remembering the time when those hills were open ranchland. Also...any added traffic would also occur when they inevitably build more multi million dollar homes and completely cover my once green hills with high end tract homes. In short I believe that a certain percentage of resistance actually came from the people who didn't want to see a gay retirement home in their community and used environmental concerns as a polite mask for their real objections....even though city council members got their fair share of emails from protestors NOT afraid to voice their real concerns about building an LGBT retirement community.

But, five years later and one long battle with Santa Rosa City Council later..they won the right to proceed (though with a slightly smaller plan)... and Fountain Grove Lodge will be built...and on one of the most expensive pieces of land in the county to boot.

So who will be the first to take advantage of such an opportunity?

LGBT seniors are a largely undiscussed portion of the gay community. Many who reach retirement age, do so alone, without the support of their families and often without children to help support them. Many land in retirement facilities with the very same people that looked on them as sick, immoral, sexual predators when they were younger. Many are aging in  from the generation that first stood up for gay rights now find a system that is completely unsymmpathetic to them now that they are older. Still others may have lost much to AIDS and now face it alone. I don't mean to paint a dire picture here...the stories that could be told here are many. My point is that alot of them aren't good and most don't get talked about at all...positive or negative.

 The classic example from my growing up experience, are those couples that everyone would refer to in public as the "eccentric bachelors" or the "unmarried ladies" down the street. At least thats the polite term that was used in public...behind closed doors other things were said. After years of life together, one succumbs to illness and passes on. His or her  family then swoops in and demands their share of the estate even though their is a surviving partner...sometimes even the house they lived in. The surviving partner, getting on in years and slowly becoming unable to care for themselves as well,  finds him/herself facing the prospect of losing the life they built together and an uncertain future alone. Where does someone in this situation go?...well, a high number go into retirement communities and assisted living facilities with the same people that whispered behind their backs or even outright attacked them their entire life. Yeah...not exactly a happy ending.



We don't talk much about growing old gay ...even though we all think about it. No one asks...what happened to the bachelors down the street because they simply dissappeared.  The only evidence being the for sale sign on the home they once shared together. Perhaps if you grew up like I did and had to overcome some pretty bad indoctrination about what it means to be gay, then maybe we didn't think we would make it to that age? However, its a discussion thats growing in the gay community as more couples gain retirement age with a set of legal protections the "bachelors down the street' did not have. Living wills, trusts, domestic partnerships, and in some cases...legal marriages help establish some form of financial security and legal protections against family members who never...EVER liked they fact that you were gay....or a government that does not acknowledge your relationship as legal. Its the beginning a a new class of people who are bringing up a topic that many feared to face because they didn't have any good answers....and its long overdue.

But while there are alot of couples out their with protections and rights previous generations where not afforded...there are still lots a men and women out there aging through the system alone that won't enjoy those benefits. Many of them blazed the trail so that we can have the live as we do today. In my private hours...when I get those...it bothers me because I know how generationally close I came to being in the same boat. When my our life calms down a bit, both Jay and I have talked some about volunteering at the new community in some capacity. The gay community too often has to rely on itself for the support missing from family and society....growing older is no different....we need to reach out and help those within our community that may not recieve that aid anywhere else....even if its just making it o.k. to talk about it.

 Perhaps some of these people look at us in later generations as the unusual ones....because we make such a big deal out of our gayness. They lived a life where silence=survival and those habits, once learned, don't die easy. Perhaps they would be uncomfortable with the thought of being in a place where everyone is gay...where they can/might have to talk about it...but I take it as a positive sign that these places are beginning to exist....that there are places where you can be with others that have similar life experiences where you  can talk about them freely and nobody douses you with holy water and hauls out a cross.



Fountaingrove Lodge is an LGBT seniors-only community. That may not sound glamorous to some but it sure is important to all of us. Time already passes so quickly for me, that the next time I blink, it may be me that is considering moving into such a place. I hope I will be blessed enough to be with Jay then. We always joke about becoming cranky old men together....we should all be so lucky. Perhaps by then the world will have changed to the point where being gay will be no big deal and the only reminders of a time when it WAS a big deal will be in the reminiscences of those of us who lived it. Perhaps in that day, an LGBT retirement community will be a thing of the past....but for now, I'm happy to have one in my back yard.

If you would like to become a part of the discussion or learn more about the issues facing LGBT seniors, please visit Sage, one of very few voices that tackle the subject in a comprehensive manner. Check them out at: http://www.sageusa.org/

Until next time everyone...

12 comments:

  1. Do you think there are enough gay people in the area of the right age to fill it? It would suck if it was mostly empty. I suppose people will travel from a long way away to join it if there aren t many already.

    In some ways it is nice that this place was built but I do think it is a bit sad that the place needs to exists.

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  2. their are tons of people the right age...the issue will be afordability more than how to fill it.

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  3. Bryan:
    Re: You and Jay discussing volunteering at this new community and your quote:"the gay community has to rely on itself for the support missing from family and society" - how about our older citizens, straight and LGBT who suffer from Alzheimers/Dementia. Anyone, anyone at all, offer to volunteer at a "Assisted Living" facility, just visit, smile, possibly feed someone who can no longer feed themselves, you will be doing something wonderful for another person and you will be rewarded in ways you can't imagine. And remember, LGBT people suffer Alzheimers/Dementia as well as straight people and love and support from family and society disappear quickly for most people in that situation. A visit, a smile, a hug(minutes from your busy life), so "everything" to someone, anyone, who has nothing to wait for, and you may be surprised at who you may find there.

    I know, it's my life at least five days a week.

    Love and Peace,
    Mare

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  4. It's right by Fountaingrove? Holy crap. Kinda the same reaction I had when I found out a few years ago that Deep Throat lived in SR! Santa Rosa's awesome...

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  5. Actually there are many more gay retirement communites arround the world - but there should be many more as it's estimated that by 2020, 25% of the gay community will be aged over 60.

    I've been tracking the gay retirement communities on GrayGay.com since 1996 - see www.graygay.com/links_retire.htm

    The "Palms of Manasota" in Florida which opened in 1988 was the first in the USA - see http://www.palmsofmanasota.com

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  6. Hi there !
    I'm watching your interesting videos and reading this blog from Barcelona. You guys are doing a great job ! Me and my husband Enric are just at the beginning of an adoption process, and we find your experiences truly inspiring.

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  7. Hey,
    This is a very interesting post. I saw my grandparents age and knew that it was very difficult for my grandmother when my grandfather died. And sometimes I see my parents and worry about their future and feel the need to take care of them. It's nice to know that there's these options for the gay community.
    Vincent

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  8. I, myself, don't see reason on why, in this day and age where psychology and sociology has already revealed that gender preference is a social construction and there's a freedom to chose for which gender will one live, many people still resist to accept the existence of LGBTs. Many issues and controversies are raised about homosexuality but none can't say precisely his/her reasons against it such as in the protest for the construction of an LGBT community in your place. The environmental issue like the destruction of the wildlife habitat in building the residential is a lame excuse, even laughable. It is just an issue of space. But the larger need to stifle the political bias against LGBT's right to a descent retirement and senior living in general is set aside.

    As humans, we all have equal rights. We must give LGBTs what is due them as citizens of the country. I want that homosexuals also would have a joyful senior living like what my friends have in their life at Charlotte retirement community.

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  9. With time elders come across with many problems where it becomes extremely tough to meet their daily tasks. They get physically and mentally challenged person. In such situation they need to have an assistant with them and it is must to drive their life smoothly.
    Assisted Living Des Plaines

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  10. Choose an adult community that can meet your needs and expectations.

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  11. This is really a good community because you can live peacefully and happily along with others. I am trying to find a niche community, particularly a long island retirement community for my relatives. It is nice to live an environment where you can have fun and also relate to other people.

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