Gay men and lesbians are the newest niche in a booming – and increasingly segmented — US retirement housing market

Posted on Thursday, November 19th, 2009 at 3:17 pm in

The first ripple of the pink baby-boomer retirement wave has hit the US property market and marks the future for this largely moneyed group and other segments of society who are beginning to look beyond accommodation and facilities, to the community they will spend the so-called ’second half’ of their lives in.

Gay men and lesbians are the newest niche in a booming US retirement housing market that already includes developments catering for Asian-Americans, the deaf, golfing enthusiasts, military veterans and university alumni, reports The Dallas Morning News (DMN).

‘Rainbow Vision’, a US$32-million, 13-acre development of adobe buildings, is the first project to offer a broad range of retirement living choices – from 120 residences for active adults to 26 assisted-living suites for frail seniors, a typical split of facilities.

Since the development opened in mid-year June, the DMN reports 60 people from across the US have bought or leased residences and settled into what’s been billed as a resort community for those who want to make the most of the second half of life.

Industry experts and the American Society on Aging believe that besides Rainbow Vision, 21 gay and lesbian retirement communities are under construction or on the drawing board. Others, including the Silver Hope Project in Dallas, are reportedly ‘under discussion’.

“The gay vocabulary hasn’t included the word old, but that’s about to change,” Jim LeCroy, vice president of the Silver Hope Project told the DMN. “Many of us are getting older, and we’ll need a place where we can feel safe.”

The publication notes that from the outside, other than rainbow banners at the entrance, there is nothing to suggest this is anything but a run-of-the-mill retirement home. Inside, members enjoy a fitness centre and spa, gourmet food prepared by a chef trained in France, cabaret shows and a salon.

Gay memorabilia adorn the centre’s walls – Billie Jean King’s tennis rackets in the fitness centre named after her, an old magazine cover of Truman Capote in the library, a photograph of Oscar Wilde in the community room.

Activity revolves around the community centre, where tai chi and yoga classes in the morning are followed by hot stone massages and book discussions in the afternoon and cabaret shows with celebrity look-alikes at night.

Rainbow Vision’s 60 residents are said to vary in age from 48 to 94 and are pretty evenly divided between men and women and between singles and couples. About a dozen aren’t gay but chose the community for its camaraderie.
“We don’t have to hide or lie here,” said Alan Taylor, 60, a retired designer who moved from Los Angeles. “We’ve all lived the same history. I can talk about the friends I’ve lost to AIDS, and everyone understands.”

A group of Dallas’ gay leaders has been trying to raise the seed money for a gay retirement community that would include condominiums and small homes for active seniors and assisted-living apartments for others.

This article was made possible for the NZ Property Monitor by Timothy Terence Manning