We’ve already reported on the hardships LGBT seniors face when not part of an embracing and supportive environment. But an article in today’s New York Times says gay retirement communities are seriously struggling during the current economic downturn.
RainbowVision, one of the first LGBT-inclusive retirement homes in the country, has filed for Chapter 11. According to reporter Dan Frosch, it’s not a unique situation:
[RainbowVision’s] problems mirror those of many other gay retirement communities around the country that have either failed to open or fallen on hard times, victims of a weakened housing market, a deflated economy and, in some cases, poor business decisions.
They were once hailed as havens where the so-called Stonewall generation — the first “out” group of senior citizens — could age without being treated with hostility or forced back into the closet. But such communities in Austin, Tex.; Boston and in the Phoenix area never opened because of a lack of finances. A development near Portland, Ore., is struggling at 25 percent of capacity, and another near Sarasota, Fla., has — like RainbowVision — filed for bankruptcy.
Several recent studies have indicated lesbian and gay seniors are discouraged from moving into traditional assisted-care facilities or, if they are admitted, face discrimination and outright hostility by staffers and/or other residents.
While RainbowVision has been plagued with complaints of overcharging by residents, it was still a safe haven. “I don’t want to go back in the closet again,” resident John Wojtkowski says. “When I came here, I felt like I could be myself. Without RainbowVision, there’s no other place to go.”
This is no small problem: There are an estimated 1.5 million elderly gay and lesbians in America—and the fact is, it’s the one group we’ll all be a part of some day.