LGBT information and advice
Many of the issues in later life are similar whether you’re heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, but some matters may need special consideration.
- How can I stay connected and meet new people?
- What’s the difference between a marriage and a civil partnership?
- What are our financial rights as a same-sex couple?
- How can I look after my health as an LGBT older person?
- What are my options if I need care?
- Who should I tell about my wishes for the future?
- How does the law protect me from discrimination?
- What can I do if I’ve been discriminated against?
How can I stay connected and meet new people?
Keeping in touch with friends and family and taking part in social activities helps you to stay connected and can prevent loneliness.
Join a social group
Enjoying hobbies and getting involved in the local community can improve self-confidence and keep you active. Groups can cover a range of activities from cooking, DIY, music, photography, cinema groups and many more. Your local community centre, leisure centre, faith group or library are excellent places to find out what is happening in your local area.
There are growing numbers of social groups specifically for older LGBT people, as well as activity-based groups for LGBT people of all ages.
Contact the Switchboard – the LGBT helpline on 0300 330 0630 for details of social groups and activities in your area
Get involved with an Age UK LGBT programme
Increasing numbers of local Age UKs are doing great work with their older LGBT communities. Age UK Oldham, Age UK Manchester, Age UK Coventry, Age UK Nottingham & Nottinghamshire, and Age UK Derby and Derbyshire all run social support groups for older LGBT people. Opening Doors London runs the UK’s biggest programme for older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Try online dating
Whether you’re separated or bereaved and looking for a partner, or have been single for some time, there are many ways to start a new relationship. Online dating is now one of the most common ways to meet a partner. Most general dating websites can be used to find a lesbian, gay, or bisexual partner, but there are LGBT dating sites as well.
You could also use a personal ad – many people find partners and lifelong friends through personal advertisements, and you can keep your details confidential through the message systems that most local and national newspapers now operate.
What’s the difference between a marriage and a civil partnership?
Same-sex couples in England, Scotland, and Wales now have the choice between civil partnerships and marriage. Same-sex couples in Northern Ireland can register a civil partnership, but same-sex marriage is not currently available.
Although there are differences in the process of forming a civil partnership and getting married, ultimately they both offer you and your partner important increased security in later life.
Both offer almost all the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual couples get when they marry. The only exception is related to survivor pension benefits, which is a complicated and changing area.
Civil partnerships are civil ceremonies and can’t contain any religious content, such as hymns or religious readings. You can choose all sorts of locations to register a civil partnership; it doesn’t just have to take place in a registry office.
Once you have registered a civil partnership, you and your partner will both be legally referred to as ‘civil partners’.
You can choose to get married in a place of worship. Not all faith organisations will conduct same-sex marriages, and they aren’t obliged to by law, but there are faith groups that do offer this and are more than happy to do so. When you get married, you’ll be referred to as ‘spouses’.
You can also choose to have a civil wedding, which like a civil partnership, can’t have any religious content and can take place in many different places, such as hotels or stately homes.
What are our financial rights as a same-sex couple?
Same-sex couples are now treated the same as heterosexual couples when it comes to financial matters.
Some examples include:
Same-sex couples who live together are now treated as a couple for benefit claims. This is regardless of whether or not you're married or in a civil partnership. If you live with your partner, make sure to inform HMRC so that you receive the right benefits.
To make sure you’re claiming all that you’re due and to find out more about benefits that could help you in later life, read our guide:
use our free online benefits calculator to find out what you could be eligible for
Civil partners and spouses won’t pay inheritance tax on what their partner leaves to them as long as they are left the entire estate.
Inheritance and wills:
Same-sex couples who are married or in a civil partnership have the same inheritance rights as heterosexual married couples. When you enter a civil partnership or get married this will cancel any existing wills and you will need to update them, although this is not the case in Scotland.
Safe to be me resource guide
This resource is written for anyone working or volunteering in health, social care or the voluntary sector who would like to support older people who are LGBT.
How can I look after my health as an LGBT older person?
Healthcare services have a duty to provide care that is fair and equal. But it is not uncommon for older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to have had negative experiences in the past – rest assured that this is no longer the norm. Every GP surgery should have a policy on equality and diversity, which you could ask to see.
If you want to tell your GP or healthcare professional that you are gay or transgender, this may help them direct you towards services that are right for you, such as local support groups
Sexual health advice isn’t just for younger people. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have risen in older people in the last 10 years. There has also been a rise in transmission of HIV among older adults. It’s important to have regular sexual health checks because not all STIs have symptoms.
Anyone who is sexually active is at risk of contracting STIs. Condoms are the only form of contraception that will protect you from STIs. You can make an appointment at a sexual health or genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinic – some are drop-in centres.
Experiencing mental health difficulties, such as depression, is not something to be ashamed of, and it isn’t an inevitable part of getting older. Research has shown that older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people’s self-esteem and mental wellbeing can be affected if they have experienced years of feeling different or rejected.
Speak to your GP if you need help. Many people find it difficult to talk about their mental health but you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable about this. Depression is an illness that can be treated.
What are my options if I need care?
If you are looking into any sort of care at home, there are a number of steps to take starting with a care needs assessment from your local authority. See our pages on types of care support.
You may be worried about receiving care services; for example feeling judged by care workers. The law protects you from discrimination and this applies to care services too, which means you should always be treated with dignity.
Care should be offered by staff who will not judge and with whom, over time, you may be able to talk openly about your views, feelings and wishes.
Paying for care
If you need help with day-to-day tasks at home, your local council may be able to help you pay for care. If you’re eligible for help, your council will provide you with a personal budget to pay for this extra support as part of a wider care plan.
Some older lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people have found that opting for the direct payments system offers them more freedom to organise their own care and to choose carers they feel comfortable with.
Direct payments are regular amounts of money paid to you so you can arrange the care and support you need based on the agreed care plan. You need to meet certain criteria to qualify and your local council has to be satisfied that you are spending them on services that meet your needs.
If you find yourself needing more care and support at home, for yourself or a partner, you could be facing a difficult decision about whether to move into sheltered housing or residential care.
Whilst there are currently no specialist housing options for older lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people in the UK, there are increasing numbers of ‘extra-care’ housing options, which offer the privacy of independent flats with the increased support of a care home. These are suitable for people who can live more independently but still require some support to do so.
Staff should be properly trained and aware of equality issues and those affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people.
Who should I tell about my wishes for the future?
When approaching later life, it can be difficult to think of what would happen if you or your partner became ill or required care. However, there are things you can put in place if this happens and it’s a good idea to discuss them in advance so you can be assured that things are taken care of. Here are a few things you may wish to look into:
Making a will
It’s essential to make a will; this can be especially important if you feel your wishes might be contested.
Setting up a power of attorney
A power of attorney is a legal document that allows someone to make decisions for you, or act on your behalf, if you’re no longer able to or if you no longer want to make your own decisions.
Making an advance statement
The concept of ‘next of kin’ has quite limited meaning when it comes to healthcare, as only the patient is able to consent to treatment. You can, however, make an advance decision or an advance statement to ensure that your wishes about treatment and general wishes are known.
For a transgender person, an advance statement could detail what clothes you want to wear in case you become unable to communicate this yourself.
How does the law protect me from discrimination?
Legally and socially there have been lots of positive steps forward for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. But if you do experience discrimination, homophobia or transphobia, there are laws in place to protect you.
The Equality Act
This protects you from discrimination at work or when receiving goods and services. The Act protects you on the grounds of sexual orientation but it also covers other types of discrimination too, including age discrimination.
Examples of situations you are now protected from:
- Not being offered a job because you are gay (or because you are too old)
- A hotel refusing you and your partner a room
- A doctor refusing to allow your partner to visit
- Discriminatory attitudes from care workers
What can I do if I’ve been discriminated against?
If you have a complaint, you will first need to go through the standard complaints process for the organisation, for example, by writing to the manager. If you’re unhappy with the response you might need to seek further advice about how to take your case forward.
Speak to your local Citizens Advice for more information.
What benefits can you claim?
Do you know what benefits you are entitled to? Find out exactly what you are owed, quickly and easily, using Age UK's benefits calculator.