At the Rainbow retirement village in France, residents will enjoy something perhaps for the first time: majority status. The development near Montpellier will be the country’s first such home for the lesbian, gay and transgender community.
Developed by the Paris-based The Villages Group on the banks of the Canal du Midi, the gated complex will serve a growing but under-served market recognised by Danny Silver, the company’s British-born founder.
Gay retirement homes have flourished for years in Australia and the US, and emerge in France at a crucial juncture. Ageing members of the “Stonewall generation” of baby boomers have lived out and proud their whole adult lives. But just as they win the right to marry (and even the Pope seems less Catholic), they face an uncertain future.
According to research by Stonewall, as many as 1.2 million people in the UK over 55 are gay. A YouGov poll by the charity reveals the particular challenges many face. In summary, grey gay people are significantly more likely to be single and live alone, and less likely to have children or close relationships with family, leaving them with fewer choices when the need comes for care.
Alan Clark, who is 60, is the author of the 2011 novel Rory’s Boys, a comedy set in Britain’s first gay retirement home. A gay-rights campaigner since the 1970s, he is dismayed that no such home really exists in the UK.
“On one hand, there is a frivolous aspect to the idea of old gays living together – an Are You Being Served? aspect I loathe – but equally this is a serious social issue that’s going to become more urgent as the first generation of gay people to live openly gets older.”
Clark’s greatest fear is of entering a care home that may not have kept up with the times. “There is already anecdotal evidence that gay men and women who have been out all their lives are going back into the closet in care homes to avoid discrimination,” he says.
If the solution is to retire to what Clark says many gay people would consider to be a ghetto, it is something he would consider – if only one existed. In the meantime, however, he is not thinking about leaving his own home in Kensington, London, which he shares with Rob, his partner of 37 years. He adds: “Our neighbours are 88 and 89, and gay, and still live active, independent lives after 60 years together.”
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