Jon Allen lived most of his life very much out of the closet. He didn’t want to go back in when he grew older. “After you live in Key West for 20 years, you’re out comfortably every minute of every day,” said Mr. Allen, 72. “The fear is not that you’re going to move into a place that’s homophobic but that at some point you might become fairly helpless and that you’ll come across some random odd caregiver who makes it his or her purpose in life to make you miserable or to let you know you’re a sinner or whatever.”
So in May, he packed up his belongings and moved into a three-bedroom apartment at Fountaingrove Lodge, a continuing-care retirement community in Santa Rosa, Calif., in the heart of wine country. It was costly — there was a $740,000 entrance fee, some of which he’ll get back if he leaves, or his heirs will if he dies — along with a $5,150 monthly fee, which covers insurance, taxes, utilities, weekly housekeeping and about 25 meals a month. But it was appealing on many levels.
For starters, it is an L.G.B.T.-focused community, which he liked. (Straight people are allowed.) For Mr. Allen, it was also a memory-free zone, in a part of the world he and his husband, who died last year, had never visited together. “I’m not trying to forget, but living with memories is hard sometimes,” said Mr. Allen, who still runs a hotel called Island House in Key West, Fla.
Fountaingrove is one of a number of niche retirement homes catering to people with similar interests and passions. Although some special-interest communities have been around for a while — the Lillian Booth Actors Home, [...]