Sandy Douglass knows the ins and outs of aging. She’s the CEO of The Methodist Home of the District of Columbia, a non-profit retirement community on Connecticut Avenue. She’s been there for 14 years.
Through a bit of serendipity, one of her residents has a lesbian daughter. That minor connection has put Douglass on the path of bringing a GLBT retirement community to the area. First, local attorney Rozanne Look sent out an e-mail broadcast looking for others interested in the gay community and aging. Susan Hester, founder and former executive director of The Mautner Project national lesbian health organization, responded. Hester is friends with the daughter of Douglass’s resident. And now this triumvirate is shopping around for a site to build their ”Open Circle Community.”
”We’ve got some extraordinary skill sets between the three of us,” says Douglass. ”We’ve been working passionately to make this work, and it’s happening.”
What’s happening, exactly, is that these three women are hoping to open a sort of GLBT — though not exclusively so — retirement community in the vicinity.
”For the last year, we’ve been working to develop an active, planned community for LGBT elders and allies,” says Douglass of what will be a for-profit enterprise, but designed for a range of incomes. While gay retirement villages have begun sprouting up elsewhere around the country on a limited scale, Douglass says Open Circle will be different.
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”One of the differences we feel about our community is that it’s to ‘age in place,”’ Douglass explains. ”That means we’re looking at a retirement-type setting where, as your health-care needs change, we would provide those services. It would be assisted living, and eventually nursing care, or hospice or palliative care.”
The first step is finding a site. Douglass says they’ve got a survey company looking at prospective locations in the D.C. area, a bit further out in Maryland, and in Delaware. But while this may all seem very preliminary, Douglass says there is no question that the Open Circle Community is on its way.
”It will absolutely happen,” she says without hesitation. ”We’re all very committed to this. We’re working with individual and institutional investors. There is a great need for this kind of community. It’s exciting and very needed.”