I don’t know how many men over the age of seventy read this magazine, but what I do know is that the twenty somethings who read it will have given very little thought to what happens when they get old. In ‘gayworld’, old age is a faraway place which merits very little thought.
Few twinks appear able to see beyond thirty, and view the prospect of anyone over that age having sex as vaguely disgusting. Somehow young gay men have the rather endearing belief that that their youth will be eternal. Sadly, life ain’t like that. Middle age, then old age come around all too quickly.
Gay dating apps are full of profiles from people who trumpet “No over thirties”. “Don’t contact me if you’re old enough to be my father.” OK, everyone has their own tastes, but life doesn’t actually finish at thirty, believe it or not.
A whole generation of gay men are about to enter old age, but what will happen to them?
I was born in 1962, and it’s my generation I’m talking about. I’m lucky. I married the man I love and we look forward to spending our old age together, but there are thousands of gay men in their fifties and sixties who must be wondering what old age has in store for them. Is it a life of total loneliness, with companionship something that only other people enjoy?
I think we are going to see two trends developing in the next twenty years, one of which may provide a unique business opportunity for those of an entrepreneurial bent.
On the south coast there is a care home for retired publishers. In Oxford there is one for retired spooks. I’m sure there are other examples of the genre. Essentially, single pensioners go to live with people of a similar background and interest. These sort of homes are often run by the pension funds, or trade associations of the sector concerned.
Gay retirement homes have existed in the US and Australia for some years. In 2013 France opened its first one, near Montpellier, but in the UK, as far as I am aware, no one has so far grasped the nettle and opened a retirement home, or care home, specifically to cater for a growing gay population.
It’s estimated that there are more than 1.2 million people in the UK who are 55 or over. Many of them, who have been quite open about their sexuality face the prospect of retreating back into the closet in their twilight years, just to counter the likelihood of discrimination in their retirement home.
I think there will also be another interesting social development that may come to the fore, and not just for gay people. Communes were always thought to be the stuff of sixties hippies, who came together to live in big houses. I suspect that to avoid a life of loneliness we will soon find that Communes of relatively well to do middle class single people (and possibly some couples too) will pool their financial resources to buy large houses in the countryside with lots of bedrooms, but also communal living space.
My partner and I have discussed with several friends the prospect of doing this once we finish our working lives, albeit with varying degrees of seriousness.
One gay friend of mine, who isn’t out, but is in his early forties, positively looks forward to such a scenario. He’d love to find the right person to share his life with, but if that fails, he just wants to be loved and to feel safe. Like most of us he wants to live in a place where everyone is loved and cared for – where people look out for you for no other reason than they love and respect you. It’s not too much to ask is it, but I wonder who many single people in their seventies or eighties can truly say they have that nowadays.
No one looks forward to getting old, but neither should anybody fear it. It’s a sad fact that loneliness is one of the greatest afflictions of modern day society, particularly for the elderly. For elderly people who are gay, isolation can be even worse. It’s up to us all to think how to counter that.