Why Tonic Housing are creating the UK’s first LGBT+ affirming retirement community

Earlier this month, Tonic Housing announced that they are to begin work on opening the UK’s first LGBT+ affirming* retirement community after securing a £5.7m loan from the Mayor of London. We reached out to Matthew Riley, Communications and Marketing Manager at Tonic Housing, and asked him to tell us more about this project.

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The Tonic Housing Story, by Matthew Riley

The support we received from the GLA Community Housing Fund will enable the purchase of 19 properties at Bankhouse, a One Housing older living scheme in Lambeth. Tonic Housing will become the UK’s first provider of LGBT+ affirmative housing, with sales for 1 and 2 bedroom shared ownership homes due to begin later this spring.

We established Tonic back in 2014 to address the issues of loneliness and isolation of older LGBT+ people and the need for specific housing and support provision, as there was none in the UK, making this announcement a major milestone for LGBT+ housing.

We know that, in addition to the general issues around ageing, LGBT+ people in particular have generally worse health outcomes, are more likely to live alone, be single and less likely to have children and family support, and are less likely to feel a sense of belonging to their local community and feel that their specific needs are not considered in their care.

This historic scheme, Tonic@Bankhouse, will create a unique offering of housing with care that celebrates LGBT+ identities with the community at the very heart of their homes. Tonic will co-create events and activities with residents based on their interests, including collaborations with other LGBT+ organisations and support providers. One Housing provides a flexible range of on-site care and support packages, with all the Bankhouse staff having LGBT+ training.

Anna Kear, CEO of Tonic Housing, says:

We’re building a better future for older LGBT+ people. We do it because we believe getting older should be empowering, affirming and fun, not scary, isolating or lonely. We’ll do it together to change perceptions, build amazing communities and improve people’s lives. Moving in is just the beginning.

The NICA response

This is a beautiful initiative from Tonic Housing, and it is exactly what we mean when we talk about Ageing Intelligence®. Not only is this project driven by data, human experience, and applied testing and research, and not only does this project help to ensure better and longer lives for older adults and help to shift the narrative around ageing, but it is also a crucial example of how organisations can leverage opportunities in the longevity economy.

It is also further proof that the UK government is committed to exploring and funding the possibilities the longevity economy presents, with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan adding “London is an open, diverse, inclusive city and I’m delighted to see these long-held plans come to fruition with the help of this loan and my Community-Led Housing Hub.” Newcastle is fast-becoming one such city, with a population growing in diversity factors like age and sexual orientation, and a flourishing innovation ecosystem able to deliver high value economic growth.

At NICA, we want to lead the region’s development of exciting market opportunities. Wouldn’t it be something to see the next LGBT+ affirming retirement community open its doors in the North East?

Glossary

*LGBT+ affirming: ‘We believe that our services and support should not only be “LGBT+-friendly” but genuinely affirming of the lives, histories, needs and desires of LGBT+ people. The term does not imply exclusion of those who do not identify as LGBT+ but actively values those who respect and celebrate LGBT+ people.’