Regnbagen House, Europe’s first LGBT-oriented retirement home, has opened in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden; its name, of course, means “rainbow.”
According to Radio Sweden, the home is located on the top three floors of an eight-story apartment building in the center of the city; almost in its backyard is a harbor serving cruise liners that travel to nearby Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Finland.
At present, Regnbagen House has forty residents in its twenty-seven apartments; some are occupied by singles, some by couples, and many have cats or dogs. The house includes a large terrace on the roof and a common area for parties; residents of the house are 55 and over, but they focus on keeping active lifestyles, making it emphatically not a nursing home.
Regnbagen has attracted people from all over Sweden and already has ninety-five people on its waiting list, showing that there is significant demand for senior LGBT services and housing. It’s classified as a “profile housing project,” meaning a residence for elders with a specific language, religion, or culture; there has even been interest in establishing one for retired police officers.
A resident of Regnbagen, Lars Monone, told Radio Sweden that the criteria for being accepted is “to show that you’re interested in this kind of profile living. Of course we don’t know much about the history of the people queuing for a place here, but most of us have a similar background of living in the closet and not talking about your lifestyle. My feeling is that when you reduce your working hours, you easily walk back into the closet and shut yourself off.”
Another resident of the house, retired art teacher Björn Gate, agreed. “Take cultural minorities, for example. It was discovered long ago that they cope much better with old age when living with people they have something in common with. It matters a lot that you are among kindred spirits.”
According to a November 2013 report by Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare, very few same-sex couples in retirement homes live together. There were no legal complaints regarding LGBT eldercare, but the report acknowledged that it doesn’t mean all needs are being met. There is also concern that LGBT elders don’t feel comfortable enough to be open about their sexualities, something many of the residents at Regnbagen House agreed with.
All the residents that Radio Sweden spoke to agreed that one of the biggest draws of Regnbagen was the sense of community, exactly what chairman Christer Fallman said they were hoping to create when plans for the home were drawn up in 2009: a place where “LGBT people can speak their own language and feel secure [in]who they are.”