Spending the Fourth of July weekend at my parents' retirement community has me reflecting on what my retirement will look like. Whether at their Florida retirement community or the North Carolina one (they change residences based on the temperature), I always find myself walking their neighborhoods looking at the different style houses and picking out the one I would get if I was in retirement. Of course, it is always something different from my parents’ house.
At Atlanta Pride every year, there are always a few queer retirement communities looking for prospective retirees to buy into their communities. I always thought it was cool for those retiring sometime soon, but I really thought it wouldn’t be needed by the time I retire. I am fairly optimistic about our future and had thought we would be far enough along the road to equality and acceptance that my wife and I would live in an integrated community of straights and queers.
Now, I am not so sure. The years on my clock seem to be ticking off a lot faster than I had planned, meaning retirement doesn’t seem as far off as I had thought, and our degree of acceptance doesn’t seem to be happening as quickly as I had hoped. My time spent in my parents’ retirement communities hasn’t helped either.
Perhaps my parents’ choice for retirement communities is not reflective of all retirement communities, but they are what I have come to know. Though I am sure each community has at least one or two people of color, I have not seen them at either place. My progressive parents would dispute this fact I am sure, but this is what I have seen over the years. The diversity in this community might be better reflected in whether you are a Republican or Democrat, or whether you play golf, tennis, or shuffle board.
In both communities, each house is prominently identified with a sign in front of it with the couple’s name on it, which makes me wonder what happens to those signs when someone dies or might be single. But more importantly, I have never seen a gay couple identified as occupants.
My mom likes to boast how many “gays” live in her retirement community in Florida. She knows this because they have a club for the gays, and because she runs the local PFLAG chapter. They have their own website, and put on some of their own events. Of course, the owner of her retirement community is one of the wealthiest right-wingers in the country. His influence is what brings Sarah Palin to visit the seniors in the community.
In both communities, I have seen women who are clearly lesbian couples, but I have also noticed they tend to keep a very low profile and never show any signs of public affection. For instances, at the big group gatherings where there are dances that are popular with seniors, I have never seen a same-sex couple dance. I have seen them on the sidelines, though. Instead, they dance at their own private events.
It is tough, because retirement communities clearly offer activities and resources that are important to seniors. I wouldn’t have understood the benefits of such places until seeing it through my parents’ experience.
In my final years, I certainly don’t want to live somewhere I can’t be completely open about who I am, so I am beginning to think these queer retirement communities might be something to look at as I age. Getting old and losing family and friends is already such a difficult time without having to worry about homophobia.
Perhaps when my daughter is near retirement (she is 5 now), the world will be such a place that there is no need for any segregation, but it looks like I better keep an eye on those queer senior living communities for when my day comes.