Gay and retiring? Join village people

KIRSTY JOHNSTON
Last updated 05:30 28/10/2012

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Plans for a gay men's retirement village are on the drawing board in Auckland.

A group of ageing gays say they want to be able to retire among their peers, instead of facing potential discrimination in traditional, heterosexual rest homes.

The proposal at this stage is in its infancy, but may eventually result in the group buying units in an apartment building, sharing a swimming pool and garden, and hiring a care worker or "houseboy" to live in the complex.

Spokesman Mike Keegan said the village was first mooted after the community heard about a group of gay women who were also considering a retirement home.

"The lesbians were looking at the concept. So we said if the lesbians can do it why can't the gay guys do it?" he said.

A survey conducted by the group of 60 gay men found 100 per cent would prefer a retirement lifestyle choice other than what was currently available.

Gay and lesbian retirement villages are popular overseas with the so-called Stonewall generation - the first "out" group of retirees - but are yet to reach New Zealand.

They developed due to a feeling among the generation that their needs were not being met by traditional retirement homes.

According to a 2010 report by the US elder gay group SAGE, many gay and lesbian people grow old without the support of family, they are twice as likely to live alone and that nursing homes often failed to protect gay men and lesbians from hostile treatment by staff or other patients.

Keegan said in New Zealand, openly gay men in the older generation often felt intimidated in standard rest homes, or embarrassed by questions about wives and children.

"Also you have to remember a lot of this gay community lived in a time when it was illegal. They had to live their life in secret, with a feeling of guilt, and don't want to go back to that."

The executive director of the retirement villages association John Collyns said he would be interested to see if there was a market for a niche village.

"I guess if 10 per cent of the population are gay, as we're told, then clearly there's going to be a demand for it," he said.

Collyns said retirement village living was predominantly a lifestyle choice so it was important the atmosphere was conducive to a resident's happiness.

A meeting will be held later this month to discuss taking the proposal further.

Meanwhile, plans for a lesbian elders village are still being worked through by another Auckland group, who are fundraising to purchase land.

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