How London got its first LGBTQ+ retirement community

When the clocks struck midnight on new year’s eve and rang in 2023, Steve Busby was on the rooftop of a fancy apartment block in central London watching fireworks light up the Thames. The weeks leading up to Christmas had been a heady mix of meals, drinks, celebrations and friends, most of whom live in the same building of luxurious flats overlooking Westminster, a stone’s throw from Vauxhall, Waterloo and Tate Britain. Not exactly your average retirement home, then – and indeed Busby, a 72-year-old gay man, would never have considered moving to one of those. “What would I do? Risk coming out, or lie about who I am? I knew I could never do it.”

Busby spent his working life running a business selling handmade silk ties all over the world, but “retirement saw my world change – it was isolating,” he says. Having never married or had children, he had been alone for a few years when the pandemic stopped him from even seeing friends. “It was dreadful,” he says. “Then a friend told me about Tonic. I came to an open day, saw the facilities and the flat, and I knew I wanted to move in and stay here for the rest of my life.”

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