Manchester city council has announced plans to create a retirement community aimed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. There are similar projects in San Francisco and Stockholm, but not in the UK.
According to a report by the city-based LGBT Foundation – the largest LGBT health and community services charity in Britain – LGBT people experience disproportionately higher levels of of isolation and loneliness in later life. The research, commissioned by the town hall, found that many feared discrimination.
Town hall lead for the LGBT community Bev Craig has said that older people should never feel isolated by who they are and that prejudice and discrimination could be problems in later life.
She believes it is time that the city developed a scheme that provides care for LGBT people where they can give each other support in older age.
The idea is in its early stages with no timetable or location so far identified and follows radical proposals to establish the UK’s first school for LGBT young people in Manchester. That ambition was unveiled in January 2015 with proposals for a city centre base and a timescale of three years. The school is intended to accommodate up to 40 young people with another 20 part-time places aimed at people who are struggling in mainstream schools because of homophobic bullying.
The council, which last year chose Carl Austin-Behan as Manchester’s first open gay Lord Mayor, believes that the city is home to the UK’s largest LGBT community outside London. It expects to see a significant rise in the number of LGBT people over 65 in the next 20 years in line with the ageing of the rest of the population. More than 7,000 over-50s living in Manchester currently identify as LGBT and, it is claimed, face particular issues.
The Lord Mayor said in an interview with The Guardian this week that it was important for people living in sheltered accommodation who were more open about their sexuality to know they were going to be respected by residents.
A survey of care home staff undertaken by the University of Nottingham in 2014 revealed that LGBT residents were not disclosing their sexual orientation to such an extent that many care home workers had no idea that there were LGBT people living there.
Heterosexual people would be welcome to apply for places at the proposed retirement community, dubbed the extra care scheme, but at least 51 per cent would be reserved for LGBT residents.
The project is being supported by the Stonewall Housing and the Homes and Communities Agency in addition to the LGBT Foundation, whose chief executive Paul Martin said: “Manchester prides itself as an age-friendly city. The charity’s own research found that more than half the LGBT community aged over 55 were concerned that their orientation would have a negative impact on their getting older and worried about social isolation.”