Stonewall Gardens offers GLBT seniors a place to call home in Palm Springs.
Since 2014, Stonewall Gardens has been providing a community and a home to GLBT seniors in Palm Springs. While you don’t have to be from California or even identify as GLBT yourself, you do have to be one thing: an ally.
“While we certainly welcome non-LGBTQ residents, being surrounded by people who share roughly the same history and experiences and values allows residents to focus on living with the assistance the facility provides as opposed to defending their lives,” says Chad Boeddeker, Stonewall Gardens executive director. “Some examples: an HIV+ resident can speak openly about successes and failures of treatment without worrying about stirring up ignorant fears from a population not familiar with the impact that HIV/AIDS has had on the LGBTQ community, or a divorcee with children from a heterosexual marriage can talk about the uniqueness of parenting after ‘coming out,’ and in both cases, the resident can find sympathetic ears and empathetic support that would likely be out of the realm of experiences or controversial in a more traditional, heterosexual assisted living environment.”
The second was unique; with the exception of Fountain Grove in Northern California, SG was the only assisted living facility of its kind in the U.S. in that it was an effort to create a “safe space” for GLBT seniors and those requiring ADL (activities of daily living) assistance. The prevailing environment in assisted living meant that GLBT residents residing in “traditional” facilities often had to hide their sexuality—essentially, go back in the closet—in order not to be subjected to prejudice and bigotry. This was and is true even of facilities advertising that they are “gay-friendly,” because management and staff may be “gay-friendly,” and indeed the state of California requires GLBT sensitivity training for such facilities, but residents spend the majority of their day interacting with other residents who come from a variety of different backgrounds, experiences, and mind frames. A facility populated by like-minded men and women who at least shared a common experience as a sexual or gender minority would remove the burden of heteronormative pressure.
The desire for Stonewall Garden was to create a “new kind” of assisted living facility or to create housing that was “not your grandmother’s nursing home.” Little things like de-emphasizing stereotypical old-folks-home things like BINGO or arts-and-crafts to bigger things like the physical layout with front doors opening onto patios outdoors as opposed to “institutional” hallways and a chef preparing and plating meals served by staff-turned-waiters/
Resident Matt Wilkinson says he has been living at Stonewall Gardens for two-and-a-half years, and as the youngest resident, he intends to live there for the rest of his life. “Which hopefully will be another 30 or so years, which is one of the reasons I take such great pride in this facility and its community,” he says. “My house was just up the street, so I do remember the renovation as it took place before the opening in January 2014. I toured before they opened but decided against placing my care and future in the hands of a startup.”
Boeddeker says Stonewall Garden’s mid-century modern architecture and recent multi-million dollar renovation makes the facility a desert oasis in the heart of one of Southern California’s adult playgrounds, an international tourist destination, and a sought-after retirement community for seniors from all walks of life.
“Open air patios, a landscaped courtyard, fully ADA-compliant apartments each with individually controlled thermostats, kitchenettes, and satellite flat-screen televisions, transportation to and from all medical appointments, assistance with medication and special diets, and weekly outings designed to plug residents into the many activities and destinations in the world-class resort town of Palm Springs and the surrounding Coachella Valley make Stonewall Gardens truly assisted living,” he boasts.
Not from California? No problem! Boeddeker says they welcome residents from all over with open arms… and the guarantee of no more polar vortexes.
“We have no lakes, but we do have the occasional mosquito. And go-go boys. Who doesn’t love go-go boys? There are many fellow Minnesotans’ that make the Coachella Valley, mainly Palm Springs, their winter home!”
For more information, visit stonewallgardens.com.