The Silver Series: How do you want to live when you are older?
This is a valid question for every citizen but maybe with a particular meaning for the LGBTIQ community. Even if the wishes how to live during the silver years are as diverse as the community, we probably are in agreement that we all want to live in a self-determined manner as long as possible, where we don't have do hide and can simply be us, surrounded by wonderful people (il-familja magħżula//our chosen families) who accept us as we are.
And wouldn't the ultimate goal be that it is an inclusive and safe space for people of different generations, different genders, different sexual orientations, different ages, different origins, different physical and mental needs and different economic and societal status.
In this article we want to introduce three organisations from Germany who are focusing on members of the LGBTIQ community in this regard. „Schwulenberatung Berlin“ is already running two houses for men and women. With a focus on women „SAPPho Frauenwohnstiftung“ has different properties and „RuT – Rad und Tat: Offene Initiative Lesbischer Frauen e.V. Berlin-Neukölln“ is currently fundraising to make such project become a reality.
The centre of „Schwulenberatung Berlin“ in Charlottenburg is unique in Europe because of its size and multiplicity. The house consists of apartments of different sizes (from studio to three bedrooms). In addition there is a flat sharing community for eight persons with particular physical and mental needs. This flat is barrier free and nursing services are available 24/7. Around 60% of residents are gay men over 55 years old, 20% are women and 20% are younger gay men. Apart from being a residential place it also houses a library, offices and counselling rooms and a multifuncational hall. A large outdoor space is also available. In October 2020 construction of a similar project started at Südkreuz, but in addition will also include for example seven apartments for older trans*inter persons, a crisis apartment and a child care centre.
In their premises at Ostkreuz there are four flat sharing communities for gay, inter and trans person with and without refugee experiences. The building, apartments and rooms are partly accessible. Also on the premises is Café Transfair, a project to help clients of Schwulenberatung Berlin to gain work experience in order to be supported with their efforts to integrate.
„SAPPho Frauenwohnstiftung“ is a non-profit organisation of lesbians and for lesbians. It supports young and old lesbians on their way to find new ways of being and living together or to preserve tested and existing projects of this kind. The idea is that the women live together in good neighbourly relations and to grow old together. The foundation is financed by donations and receipt of inheritances of women. The properties and capital are used to create housing spaces for lesbians. Some of the apartmens can be rented and for some a usufruct contract has to be concluded.
It started in 1986 when eight women bought a farm estate with five hectar of land and set up an association for lesbians who are 40+ years old. This estate with three residentiall buildings became the capital stock of the „SAPPho“ foundation. In 1993 two of the founders purchased another house with six apartments using own capital and loans. By now all the flats are owned by the foundation. Some women in this property live alone, some as family and some as couple. Another house with five spaciously laid out apartments was bought in 1995. Today three of those flats belong to the foundation. In 2020 the latest project started to become a reality when another apartment house was bought.
The organisation RuT in Berlin caters for elderly and disabled lesbians and elderly and disabled women. RuT developed a housing project which will consists of for example around 70 apartments which are suitable for older persons and barrierfree, a flat sharing community with nursing services for eight persons, a coffee shop, an event hall and a large common space on the roof. Cultural activities will be organised and advisory services and health courses will be provided too. Furthermore a visitors service will help taking care of the residents. More than 200 women have shown interest to live in the premises.
The beauty of such projects and of particular significance is that a certain spirit is created that all residents are living together (and not only next to each other) with a sense of solidarity. Younger people help older persons for example with their heavy shopping or not to feel lonely. And the older residents can help the younger ones with their studies or they can occassionally take care of their children. An important aspect is also to involve the „non-LGBTIQ“ neighbourhood. Potential barriers can be broken down, prejudices proven wrong and a harmonic living together can be achieved. This may all sound like an utopian idea from the beginning of the 20th century. Nevertheless, why not try to make something like it come true in Malta.
What do you think of such projects? Would you join? Or do you think the LGBTIQ community does not need such projects? Do they maybe segregate and create a LGBTIQ bubble? We are looking forward to a lively discussion. Perhaps a group of like-minded people will be found which will work on similar ideas. And thus another milestone of the LGBTIQ community in Malta will be achieved.