Pioneering scheme to build LGBT+ retirement homes will give queer elders ‘dignified living’ after a life of discrimination

A residential developer is creating a pioneering co-housing scheme for elderly LGBT+ people that will be the first of its kind in the UK.

Recognising the specific needs of an ageing LGBT+ population, house-builder L&Q and London Older Lesbian Co-housing (LOLC) are working on an alternative care home that will allow queer elders to live alongside their peers in an intentional community, created and run by its residents.

The facility would consist of separate apartments in the same building complex with communal spaces including a garden, dining room and kitchen. The residents will be from different backgrounds and with varying health issues, but will all have one thing in common.

“We have suffered discrimination in the past because of our sexuality and we need the assurance that we can continue to be ‘out’ in our final years,” wrote the LOLC’s Amanda Girling-Budd in Inside Housing.

“Our strapline is ‘supporting each other to have the best rest of our lives’ and that is what we aim to do.”

The developers are currently searching for small site in north London and have commissioned feasibility studies from architects.

Although the scheme is still in its early stages it’s already backed by the Build London Partnership, the Greater London Authority and the Community-Led Housing Hub, and hopes to partner with a small housing association to fund and manage the homes.

“The design and fabric of the development will foster social life and mutual support,” Girling-Budd explained.

LGBT+ pensioners are more likely to be child-free and live alone, and the heteronormative nature of care presents its own particular set of issues.

Several of these challenges were raised at last year’s PinkNews ageing summit, including fears of homophobic abuse from staff or other residents in care homes, a lack of support from family members, and concerns about the way that the private becomes public in terms of care.

It’s why co-housing schemes such as the LOLC’s are likely to gain popularity in future as more out pensioners move towards assisted living.

“We want to live somewhere beautiful with like-minded people. We don’t think that is too much to ask,” Girling-Budd wrote.

“We hope that with help from our partners, we can be a model for dignified living for LGBT elders – and perhaps for the wider ageing population.”