Sweden opens first retirement home for gays
David Landes (thelocal.se, 22/11/2013)
Sweden's first retirement home for elderly members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities opened in Stockholm on Friday, capping a four-year effort that may spark a new trend.
On Friday afternoon, residents and supporters of the Regnbågen (‘Rainbow’) senior living facility (seniorboende) will gather for an official opening ceremony for the facility, which located in Stockholm’s Gärdet neighbourhood.
"It's wonderful," resident and association vice-chair Lars Mononen told The Local.
"People have worked hard on this for several years and now it's finally a reality."
Regnbågen is a cooperative renters association for people aged 55 and older that offers 27 flats located on the top three levels of an eight-storey building on Sandhamnsgatan.
Forty men and women have already moved into the facility, which means the majority of the association's 90 members are waiting for a flat to open up.
"Some of our members are younger people who are in their thirties who are planning for the future by getting in the queue now," said Mononen, who is 64 and joined the association earlier this year.
He explained that Regnbågen is meant to be a place where members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities can feel comfortable in their later years.
"We don't have kids, generally, and often aren't that close to other family members, and when you stop working you really miss that social interaction," said Mononen.
"Renbågen gives us all a little bit of an extra social safety net lets us be a part of an active community. This is a place where people actually seek out contact with their neighbours, rather than try to avoid it."
Plans for the facility were hatched in earnest back in 2009 and involved representatives from Stockholms Äldreboende AB, which manages the provision of care of a nursing home in the northern section of central Stockholm, and Micasa Fastigheter, which manages all of Stockholm’s nursing home properties.
When it became clear that there was strong interest among members of the city's LGBT community for an senior living facility with their interests in mind, the project gained additional momentum.
"We’re looking to create a care home where LGBT people can ‘speak their own language’ and feel secure in who they are," Renbågen chairman Christer Fällman, considered one of the main drivers behind the project, told The Local in 2009 when planning first began in earnest.
While the facility caters to the needs of homosexuals, including staff trained in issues specific to the community, it would be open to anyone and would accept residents from around the country.
“We don’t want this to be seen as a move back into the closet. Anyone will be allowed to live there. It would be another form of integration,” said Fällman.
Mononen reckons that while Renbågen may be Sweden's first gay-friendly retirement home, it likely won't be the last.
"I know already they are looking at doing something similar in Gothenburg," he said.