Calif. Assisted Living Community Targets Growing Wave of LGBT Seniors

Growing national support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights has sparked an increase in development plans for LGBT-friendly senior housing properties in cities nationwide, the most recent of which will open mid-summer in Palm Springs, Calif.

Stonewall Gardens, a new 24-unit assisted living community managed by Northstar Senior Living, will offer resort-style accommodations and cater to the needs and issues of LGBT seniors, a segment of the population that is estimated to range from one to three million.

LGBT seniors, studies show, often find a lack of acceptance in general senior living facilities and are sometimes forced back into the proverbial closet when entering one of these communities, an issue that became the impetus for the development of Stonewall Gardens, according to Tim O’Bayley, publicist for Stonewall.

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“It’s a big thing for people who may have lived a very open life, but when they find themselves moving into an assisted living facility they’re not necessarily as open as they once were,” he says. “So creating this specifically for that purpose is going to help.”

The name “Stonewall” also suggests a more inclusive environment for gay seniors as it hearkens back to the gay bar in New York City where violent demonstrations against a police raid occurred in 1969. LGBT patrons fought back, launching a national liberation movement.

“People of the Stonewall and pre-Stonewall generations have not had the benefit of their peer’s acceptance,” O’Bayley says. “I feel that when we go out of our way to create a safe space for them to be who they are, a lot of that stress is going to disappear.”

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Stonewall Gardens is expected to open to residents in four to six weeks and will include, among other amenities, 24-hour professional care staff, a full-time licensed nurse, restaurant-style dining, happy hour celebrations and a common area complete with a stage for karaoke and performances.

Although the community places an emphasis on marketing to LGBT residents, it is open to anyone who wants to live there. Entrance fees start at $3,500 with monthly fees beginning at $3,850. O’Bayley says if operations go well, a second Stonewall location could open up in the California area.

Other LGBT-focused communities have sprouted up within the past year across cities nationwide, including Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

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“The need has been identified and the demand is there,” O’Bayley says. “Our out and proud elders are aging and this is kind of the first wave of [these facilities].”

Written by Emily Study

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