Gay Retirement Homes: Million Dollar Idea or Money Trap?

When we were undergrads, my friends and I often planned our futures while pouring ourselves cocktails from plastic liter bottles of cheap vodka.  While we would concoct money-making schemes for hours on end, we always seemed to return to one can’t-miss business idea:  a gay retirement home.  It makes perfect sense: the gay population is aging rapidly, has deep pockets, and doesn’t want to retire to developments full of straight people.  It seems like a no-brainer.

Newsweek released a story this week that suggests my friends and I were on to something.  According to the article, the gay population is much more concerned about their well-being as they age, largely because most don’t have children to rely on as their health care needs grow.  The website Gay Retirement Guide reports there are approximately 25 gay retirement centers across the country, up from just 1 in 2001.  Furthermore, a study by the Metlife Mature Marketing Institute and the American Society on Aging reveals that over 25% of GLBT baby-boomers fear discrimination as they grow older.  Gay retirees just want a place where they can grow old gracefully and respectfully with like-minded neighbors.

However, another article from Edge Boston suggests the gay retirement industry may not be as can’t-miss as it appears.  Stonewall Miner, LLC, a planned gay retirement development in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood recently went belly-up as funding ran out.  Similar projects in Dallas and Oregon have fallen through.  Yes, launching any kind of real estate venture in this economy is a near impossible battle, but the article brings up another interesting point that I have a feeling developers tend to miss.

There’s a common misconception that elderly GLBT individuals have huge disposable incomes, but the fact is, queer seniors have a lower median income than their heterosexual counterparts.  It’s true that GLBT retirees would prefer to live among their own, but if the price tag is too high they’ll have to turn elsewhere.  As the gay senior population continues to grow, there is obviously a potentially lucrative market for GLBT retirement developments.  The challenge for developers will be to offer locations and amenities the clientele demands, but at costs that won’t break the bank.

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