As the Baby Boomer generation approaches retirement age, starting in 2011, the population of American seniors is expected to double from 37.9 million to 72.1 million. A study released by San Diego’s The Center, an organization devoted to housing and related needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, says there are an estimated 1.5 million LGBT seniors currently, and that number will continue to grow. The study lists senior housing as one of the top concerns for the LGBT community as it approaches retirement age.
Members of San Diego’s LGBT Community Center have met during the last two years to discuss issues affecting LGBT seniors, including senior housing. “The guiding mission of the group was to help to facilitate the development of a long-term community vision for affordable housing and other living facilities,” the study says.
The San Diego LGBT Senior Needs Assessment Survey polled seniors on topics most important to them as they age, finding the fourth-ranked concern was lack of safe, LGBT-affirmative, affordable housing.
More than 56% of respondents to the survey report owning or making payments to their own home, says the survey, and “one issue shared by LGBT seniors and their heterosexual counterparts involves the desire to remain in their homes as they grow older. Both groups hope to stay in their homes for as long as possible while aging.”
The survey found that 79% of LGBT seniors wish to age in place; however, the same percentage reports feeling safer living in an LGBT community than in other environments. The survey reveals that 26% of respondents sometimes, often, or almost always attempt to hide their orientation from neighbors, so it comes as no surprise that an overwhelming majority (90%) say they would live in LGBT-affirmative housing if it were available.
However, 23% of the survey’s respondents reported their yearly income at $19,999 or less, and barely more than half consider themselves “very able” to afford their monthly mortgage or rent payments. Additionally, aging in place often necessitates adjustments to the home environment in order to maintain safety standards for seniors, and this incurs extra costs. Because of this, the survey emphasizes the importance of affordable senior housing for the LGBT community as it reaches retirement age.
In light of the survey’s findings, the Community Center’s report lists a series of recommendations in regards to senior LGBT housing, including identifying “a low-income, senior housing developer who may be willing to work in partnership with the LGBT community to develop subsidized, affordable, low-income senior housing for LGBT seniors; existing low-income, senior housing options for LGBT seniors, including existing landlords or property owners who may be willing to work inpartnership with the LGBT community to expand their affordable offerings to low-income LGBT seniors; and existing market-rate senior housing communities who may be interested in the further development of market rate housing or retirement communities for LGBT seniors.”
Interestingly enough, construction of the nation’s first five-star LGBT retirement community, called Fountaingrove, has begun in Sonoma County, Calif.
Written by Alyssa Gerace
Editor’s note: The article originally called Fountaingrove “the nation’s first LGBT retirement community,” but it is was brought to the author’s attention that it is more accurate to call it “the nation’s first five-star LGBT retirement community.”