WHO WILL CARE FOR YOU
WHEN YOU GET OLDER?
It’s a question that we all come to ask at some point in our lives
and one that for LGBT people can cause particular anxiety.
Who will an older gay man or gay woman rely on to provide practical and emotional support when the need arises? Many people within the LGBT community have been forced by circumstance to address this issue sooner than others, particularly in times past (and for some still present) when faced with hostility from biological families and where same-sex relationships have not been recognized.
In June last year, we visited an initiative in Berlin which provides older LGBT people in that city with many reasons to feel more optimistic about growing older. Lebensort Vielfalt is Europe’s first multi-generational home for LGBT people and opened in June 2012, providing its residents with an environment where they can be open about their sexuality. Amongst others, we spoke with Peter, a British resident, who had opted to live in this open environment as “most of my life I have lived with other gay people”.
He wasn’t prepared in his retirement years to enter a closet he had never been in before and perhaps too he assumed that his thespian flamboyance (he had worked in theatre for all his professional life and still remains partial to drag) would be altogether too much for a mainstream care home.
Peter’s desire to continue to live his life openly and honestly is shared by many others in Berlin- there are currently 200 people on the waiting list for one of the 25 apartments in the development.
Since our visit to Berlin, we have accelerated our own efforts to establish an equivalent space in Britain. From the outset, we were all clear that the space must include affordable housing so that those with the greatest need and fewest choices can be supported through TONIC. We are equally ambitious for the space to be more than just a residential care home- we envisage a hub providing businesses and services relevant to the residents but also to the surrounding community. In Berlin, the café, bar, and restaurant provide a community focus and succeed in generating income for the managing organization. We’re now building an ever-increasing network of organizations and individuals that wish to work with us in making TONIC a thriving and sustainable social enterprise in the UK.