When plans were first announced years ago to establish an upscale LGBT retirement community in Sonoma County, the idea was nothing short of revolutionary. The first of its kind in the nation, Fountaingrove Lodge was dreamed up as a place where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors and their allies could spend the post-work years of their lives in a beautiful location, with luxury apartments that offered an option for continuing care services. With a golf course, a gourmet restaurant, unbeatable views and 10 acres on which to roam in safety, security, comfort and beauty, the project was immediately controversial—not due to the idea of same-sex couples retiring in peace, but because the size of the facility caused concerns to locals eager to protect the environment.
Any way you look at it, that’s social progress. After addressing the environmental concerns, developers Bill and Cindy Gallaher, who’ve created a significant senior-citizen empire through building state-of-the-art housing complexes all over the country, forged ahead and brought the long-overdue dream to life. In November, the first residents moved into Santa Rosa’s Fountaingrove Lodge, and the only shockwaves caused were from the realization that, until now, no facility of its kind had existed anywhere in the country.
As the first generation of LGBT Americans to have lived the majority of their lives out-of-the-closet, Fountaingrove’s inaugural group of residents know the truth: while things may be about to get better, the present is often not so great for gay and lesbian seniors, who experience far higher incidents of abuse and neglect than straight seniors. Reports show that many LGBT seniors are at increased risk of depression and suicide. There are also numerous reports that many gay and lesbian seniors, fearing discrimination, go back into the closet for the first time in decades when leaving private homes to take residency in group-care facilities.
While Fountaingrove is certainly a pricey option, it offers hope that the tide has turned. In the future, as indicated by reports of several similar facilities now in planning or construction phases around the country, old age might become something to look forward to for LGBT seniors, who previously had no practical models of safe, inviting housing.
And who knows, maybe it won’t be that far in the future before a senior’s sexual orientation and gender identity are no big deal. fountaingrovelodge.com.—D.T.