The Cape May County home that Vince Grimm and his husband, Will Kratz, designed and built is full of memorabilia and memories of their 56 years together.

It offers gracious, light-filled spaces for displaying Grimm's artwork, and views of the Delaware Bay that are nothing short of spectacular.

But there also are far too many stairs even for an active, energetic senior to continue navigating safely while living alone.  Kratz died at 77 in February, 2017; Grimm is 80.

"I need something simpler and all on one floor," said the Pottstown, Pa. native. "And I want to be able to stay in this neighborhood."

Coupled or single, with or without immediate family,  retired or still working, elderly and boomer-era  LGBTQ people are having to think about their next moves, literal or otherwise. Because while gay life has undergone a revolution in recent decades, the aging process still is what it is — for everybody. And old attitudes about sexualities other than hetero have not exactly disappeared, particularly among older, non-LGBT people whose new neighbors we may become.

"Older gay people are looking for a place where they can feel safe being who they are, and don't have to hide who they are,"  said Gordon Sauer, the leader of the Hudson County affiliate of Sage, a respected national advocacy group for LGBTQ seniors. Sage also operates the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging.

Some gay seniors want to to "age in place," in their own homes, or move into smaller homes, as Grimm does. Others are considering over-55 communities, assisted living facilities, or nursing homes.

"What's important is that [these] be places where everyone is treated with respect," Sauer said. "The tone should be one of inclusion."

The 66-year-old retired teacher and Morris County resident makes Sage presentations to community groups and to service providers such as Green Hill Senior Living in West Orange, Essex County.

Green Hill is distributing a 10-page survey to LGBTQ folks over 55 to get a handle on the housing, care and other needs of this potential market. It also will host a "housing expo" for gay seniors on June 9.

"We're going to raise the rainbow flag and proclaim that we're welcoming,"said Green Hill spokeswoman Amy Simon.

"We're located in an area that's very progressive, and the [LGBTQ] community is more out. We're changing intake forms, how questions are asked and what questions are asked" during interviews with prospective residents, she said. "We have 173 respondents so far."

Several questions on the public survey — which concludes May 15 — deal with the experience of anti-gay discrimination or harassment. The survey is being distributed in partnership with Garden State Equality, New Jersey's largest LGBTQ advocacy organization.

"Many of our members are seniors, and many of them have had lifetimes of stigma," said Aaron Potenza, GSE's director of programs.

"There are higher levels of poverty and significant health disparities, and this older generation is less likely to have children than younger LGBTQ generations," he said. "They're more likely to be estranged from their families, making them more reliant upon services."

Boomers also are likely to be the LGBTQ generation most impacted by the emergence of AIDS in the early 1980s.

In the 15 years before new drugs transformed a universally fatal disease into a generally manageable one — at least, for those able to access or afford the lifesaving treatments  — gay men my age saw ourselves unlikely to make it to 40, much less, to seniordom.

"Anecdotally we've heard people say they didn't expect to be around in 30 years," said Potenza. "So they didn't plan."

Later this year, Garden State Equality "will do focus groups with older LGBTQ people throughout the state, in partnership with the Monmouth University School of Social Work," he added. "We want to develop a statewide needs assessment of the population."

While younger people are far more accepting of their LGBTQ peers, the views of older people may not have changed much from the bad old days. This means that gay seniors in nursing or assisted living facilities may become socially isolated — like a gentleman Grimm recalled meeting in a Cape May County.

The request for a visit came through Gables, the local advocacy and social organization. Grimm is an active member.

"The guy talked about being so lonely that he would get on the bus that would take people to an evangelical church service on Sundays, just to have someone to socialize with," he said. "He later requested to move to another nursing home."

Grimm's community involvement did not begin with Gables. He and his husband were involved beginning in the 1960s in what was then called the gay liberation movement.  Grimm volunteered to be a buddy for people with AIDS in and around New Hope, Pa. in the early 1980s — when the federal government was mostly mute about the unfolding public health calamity — and later, became a key South Jersey figure in the marriage equality battle.

He's still active, not only politically but in philanthropic causes, including a foundation he and his husband established to assist poor families in Vietnam.

Grimm regularly rides his bike, runs, does yoga and even a bit of karate, He's nothing if not a role model.

So when he says he and senior friends, gay and straight, have begun talking about someday pooling their resources and living communally, I listen.

LGBTQ people and our friends and allies, taking care of and watching out for each other as the sun sets?

I'm in.

Vince Grimm at the top of the steps to the front door of his Cape May County home. The number of stairs inside and out is among the reasons he’s looking to move to a single-floor house.
KEVIN RIORDAN
Vince Grimm at the top of the steps to the front door of his Cape May County home. The number of stairs inside and out is among the reasons he’s looking to move to a single-floor house.