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East Bay retirement community serves as LGBT senior mecca

East Bay community became an LGBT retirement mecca
East Bay community became an LGBT retirement mecca 02:46

WALNUT CREEK - While the Bay Area is known worldwide for its place in LGBTQ history, the popularity of one Walnut Creek retirement home could come as a surprise. 

About 3 million LGBTQ adults over the age of 50 currently live in the U.S. But as they grow older, they're having a hard time finding retirement communities that feel welcoming. A 2018 study by AARP showed 82% of LGBTQ seniors don't feel like they have the social supports they need as they get older.

When Darryl Wong and Michael Kandel, a married couple from New York City, retired a few years ago, they were looking for an affordable, safe and, most importantly, accepting place to in which to settle down.

"We needed to be in a place that politically and socially was going to be comfortable," Wong said.

They checked out all the well-known gay-friendly hotspots, like Provincetown and San Francisco and even Paris.

Much to their surprise, they ended up in a place called Rossmoor, a small retirement community in Walnut Creek.

"It is a deeper comfort level here that I ever expected," Kandel said. "It just has a totally different vibe here."

Ever since they've been busy hosting barbecues for new friends and going to LGBTQ -focused movie nights.

"Coming to Rossmoor was such a surprised because we planted ourselves from New York and we found an instant community," Wong said.

In the last few years, Rossmoor, an age-restricted community, has emerged as an unlikely LGBTQ senior haven.

With nearly 10-thousand residents, Roosmoor is a city within a city, with its own newspaper, two golf courses and about 200 clubs, three of them that carter to both gay and lesbians residents.

When Alex Baccaro, a transgender man and the chair of the Rossmoor LGBTQ Alliance first moved to Rossmoor 14 years ago, there few gay people living there. But over the years, the community grew mostly by word of mouth. These days his organization has 260 members.

"We are becoming more and more known for our community and people see that it is a friendly place for LGBTQ people," Baccaro said. "It's safe and there are tremendous numbers of activities they can do within the LGBTQ community."

No one knows exactly how many LGBTQ residents live in Rossmoor. The complex doesn't keep track of people's sexual orientation.

But for Wong and Kandel, it checked all the right boxes.

"it's just a totally different world," Wong said.  

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