In a first for the United Kingdom, a dedicated retirement home for members of the LGBT community is set to open in 2021, thanks to support from the city of London. The building for the new facility, which boasts a restaurant, bar and rooftop terrace, was designed by architect Norman Foster.
Breaking new ground in the UK, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has confirmed that the Greater London Authority's Community Housing Fund will provide a loan of 5.7 million pounds sterling for the creation of a new retirement home that will be the first of its kind. Located in the Vauxhall neighbourhood on the south bank of the Thames, the new facility will specifically cater to members of the LGBT community.
"London is an open, diverse, inclusive city, and I'm delighted to see these long-held plans come to fruition with the help of this loan, ... Older Londoners deserve to be able to enjoy their later years in comfort and security," declared Sadiq Khan.
The 19 units to be made available in the project designed by the renowned British architect Norman Foster will offer a choice of one or two bedrooms. The new home will also provide high-end services, including a restaurant, bar, rooftop terrace and a "floating garden," as well as round-the-clock access to medical care. The first tenants are set to move in by mid-summer 2021.
Tonic Housing, the non-profit at the helm of the new project, was keen to voice its enthusiasm: "Tonic@Bankhouse will create a unique offering of housing with care that celebrates LGBT+ identities with the community at the very heart of their homes. Tonic will co-create events and activities with residents based on their interests, including collaborations with other LGBT+ organisations and support providers."
Safety and special care
In France former retirement home director Stéphane Sauvé, is campaigning for a project similar to the one proposed by Tonic Housing, "La Maison des solidarités." "Working as a care-home manager, I was witness to discrimination against the gay community." He notably cites an incident when no-one was willing to dance with Madame Martin, "an unabashed lesbian," during a tea dance because she was viewed as "contagious."
"If, through ignorance, I had not been confronted with this question, I wouldn't want to wait until my final years to open my chakras. When you have moral values, you don't want to change them at the end of your life," explains Stéphane Sauvé.
Along with discrimination, the LGBT minority is also faced with health issues that are similar but also different to those commonly found in retirement homes. "American studies have shown that they have more pre-existing conditions, more diabetes, more issues with addiction, anxiety and depression. And that is not to mention the section of this population that is HIV-positive or hormonal treatments for transgender retirees. We don't know how they are going to grow old."
"I'm 49 years old, I'm gay, and I don't have any children. Like everyone else, I wonder who will be there for me," adds Stéphane Sauvé. "Most members of the LGBT community do not have children, and thus are less likely to benefit from end-of-life help. They are a more isolated public."
According to the former retirement home director, these reasons are more than sufficient to dismiss any accusation of communitarianism. "All the more so because the LBGT environment will be straight-friendly."
The development in London is not the first of its kind worldwide. Similar initiatives already exist in Canada, Spain, the United States and Australia. In France, the cities of Nice, Lyon, Montreuil, Romainville and Paris have expressed an interest in the project.