How LGBTQ+ retirement communities create healing spaces for queer elders

LGBTQ+ retirement communities provide a space for queer seniors to feel seen, celebrated and respected in their identities.

LGBTQ+ couple smiling in a retirement community.
Image: Pexels

The benefits of LGBTQ+ retirement communities cannot be overstated.

As we advance in age, queer people are prone to experiencing increased loneliness and isolation, especially in straight-centric environments that revolve around traditional family structures.

A 2018 study showed that 76% of LGBTQ+ Americans worry about having adequate social supports as they age, but a London-based study found that while only 1% of LGBTQ+ people aged over 50 would consider moving to a general retirement community, over 50% are interested in an LGBTQ+ specific space.

Fortunately, LGBTQ+-centred retirement communities have been developed to provide a space where seniors can enjoy living out lives fully as themselves and feel seen, celebrated and respected.

For generations, queer people did not have the option of living as their full, authentic selves. Some older people talked about how challenging it was to move into a retirement or assisted living facility where they feared their caregivers could be homophobic. Now, LGBTQ+ people are rebelling against the homophobia they endured throughout their lives and intentionally developing retirement communities for queer seniors to thrive.

Regnbagen (Rainbow House), Stockholm, Sweden
Europe’s first LGBTQ+ retirement community was founded in Sweden in 2009. Starting with just 40 people living in 27 apartments, the community has grown to nearly 300 members with a lengthy waiting list. The on-site facilities include a hairdresser, gym, library, health clinic, and restaurant, and the community offers public transit to the city centre.

Sweden is ranked as one of Europe’s best countries for LGBTQ+ rights, but many residents experienced discrimination throughout their lifetimes. Now, they can live freely and safely as their authentic selves.


Tonic Housing, London, UK
In 2021, Tonic Housing opened the UK’s first LGBTQ+ affirming retirement community.


The community-led organisation offers a “vibrant and inclusive urban LGBTQ+ affirming retirement community where people can share common experiences, find mutual support and enjoy their later life.” Residents live in one and two-bedroom apartments, and the community space includes an on-site restaurant, on-site events and activities, and collaborations with LGBTQ+ organisations.


Villaverde District, Madrid, Spain
While more and more European cities are offering LGBTQ+ retirement homes, most of them are expensive. Madrid is the first city to offer a fully council-funded retirement community.

Federico Armenteros, the founder, created the concept knowing that so many queer people feel unsafe when housed in a traditional retirement home because of their sexuality. The charity behind the community spent 10 years securing funding, fighting against prejudices and raising awareness about LGBTQ+-specific needs.


Roze Hallen, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Roze Halen was founded in 2018 to provide a safe environment for like-minded people who are invested in meaningful relationships and queer community. The organisation, Out Forever, began surveying the community in 2006 to gain input and preferences from prospective residents and learned that people wanted to maintain their own independence while living communally alongside their LGBTQ+ neighbours.

The organisation tailor-made the building with the ageing LGBTQ+ community in mind. Features include a communal garden and accessible apartments for all guests.

Rainbow Vista, Oregon, USA
Rainbow Vista is an active senior gay community that offers a “safe, non-threatening, and discrimination-free environment” for older citizens. All residents share access to a large event space, video theatres, an exercise room and a game room with a pool table. Everyone is allowed to bring a cat or dog to live with them as well.


Living Out, Southern California, USA
The Living Out retirement complex offers luxury, resort-style comforts. The accommodation includes a dog park, massage studio and gorgeous mountain views, but this space is not affordable for the average retiree with 2-bedroom accommodations starting at $699,000.


LGBTQ+ people are coming out younger and living longer, and everyone deserves to enjoy their retirement in safe and fun environments. One resident from London’s Tonic Housing said, “My body might be 72, but in my head, I’m still 30. We’ve lived our lives, and done the scene. Trust me: I’ve enjoyed it.” He says, “This is my last chapter now – I don’t want to do that without being myself, truly.”

While Ireland does not have any LGBTQ+ retirement communities yet, there are queer-friendly spaces for seniors to connect. LGBT Ireland offers a Telefriending Service for older members of the community to chat with a friendly volunteer on a weekly basis, and there are a number of social groups available across the country.

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