Most of the issues, advice and policies relating to later life apply to everyone equally, but for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT+) people, some matters may need specific consideration.
You and your partner can choose to marry or register a civil partnership. This can be a great way to publicly celebrate your love for one another.
You can choose to have either a civil or religious marriage ceremony. But it’s worth noting that not all faith organisations will marry same-sex couples, and they’re not legally obliged to. If you and your partner are already in a civil partnership, you can convert this into a marriage if you want to.
In practical terms, civil partnerships grant almost all the same rights and responsibilities as marriage. They’re created when two people sign the civil partnership document in the presence of a registrar and witnesses. The ceremony can take place in a registry office or other registered premises such as a hotel. It can also be conducted in a religious building such as a church or synagogue, if they agree to it, but the ceremony itself can’t have religious content. Once you've registered a civil partnership, you and your partner will be referred to as ‘civil partners’.
Currently, there’s no same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, although you can enter into a civil partnership.
Healthcare services have a duty to provide care that is fair and equal. But if you've faced discrimination or poor treatment in the past, it’s understandable to worry it could happen again.
Every doctor’s surgery should have a policy on equality and diversity, which you can ask to see when registering as a patient or at any time afterwards.
You should feel confident that any information you share with NHS staff is confidential and there are strict laws to ensure the security of health records.
If you're finding it harder to manage at home, you may want to think about your housing options. Your home could be adapted to suit your needs, or there are other options such as sheltered housing, extra-care housing or care homes. See our information on Housing options.
There are currently no specialist housing options specifically for older LGBT+ people in the UK, however you are entitled to ask questions of the managers and staff working in supported housing or residential care to find out more about their attitudes. All staff should be properly trained and aware of the issues affecting LGBT+ people. You could also ask how the home accommodates relationships and whether there is a code of practice on privacy.
What are my rights to my partner's tenancy?
If you live with your partner in rented housing but the tenancy agreement is in their name, you might be able to get your name added too. You don’t need to be married or in a civil partnership to do this. It might be easier if you live in a council or housing association property but check the terms of the tenancy and your landlord’s policies to see what they say.
If your partner dies and you were joint tenants, the tenancy should automatically transfer to you. If your partner was the sole tenant, the rules depend on the type of tenancy they had. This can be complicated so seek further advice if you’re not sure. If you and your partner didn’t marry or register a civil partnership, you may need to provide evidence of your relationship, such as joint accounts and bills, and being registered on the electoral roll at the same address.
If in doubt, speak to a local advice agency like your local Age UK or Citizens Advice.
Can I claim my spouse or civil partner's pension?
The State Pension is based on your own National Insurance contributions and, in general, you won’t be able to claim on your spouse or civil partner’s contributions at retirement or if you’re widowed or divorced.
If you reached State Pension age before 6 April 2016 and don’t have enough National Insurance contributions in your own right, you may qualify for a basic State Pension based on your spouse or civil partner’s National Insurance contributions.
You’re entitled to a survivor’s pension from your spouse or civil partner’s occupational pension if they die. However, occupational pension schemes are only required by law to grant survivor’s benefits to same-sex couples based on the partner’s contributions from 2005 onwards.
Private pension schemes aren’t legally required to extend survivor benefits to unmarried/unregistered partners, but you can nominate someone to benefit from your pension if you die.
How are my benefits affected if I have a partner?
For certain benefits, same-sex couples who live together are treated as a couple, whether or not they're married or in a civil partnership.
This may reduce the amount of means-tested benefits such as Pension Credit, Universal Credit, Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support, because your partner’s income is included as part of the assessment. However it won’t reduce non-means-tested benefits such as a State Pension or a disability benefit such as Attendance Allowance or Personal Independent Payment which are calculated on the basis of your individual circumstances.
If you receive any means-tested benefits, let the office that pays your benefits know that you have a civil partner or spouse, or that you’re living with a partner. If you don’t tell them, it may be seen as fraudulent and you may have to pay back any money you've been overpaid.
What benefits can you claim?
Do you know what benefits you are entitled to? Our Benefits Calculator can help you, quickly and easily, to find out what you could be claiming.
No one should ever treat you badly because of your sexual orientation or gender but sadly it’s something many LGBT+ people will experience. There are now laws in place to protect you, and lots of organisations that can offer support.
The law on discrimination
The Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal to discriminate against people with ‘protected characteristics’. These characteristics include age, disability, gender reassignment and sexual orientation. The Act covers you at work, and when accessing goods and services. It includes, for example:
- care homes
- healthcare providers
The Act means an organisation can’t refuse you services or treat you worse than others because of your sexual orientation or your gender identity.
If you have a complaint, you must first go through the organisation’s standard complaints process. This could mean, for example, 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, depending on the organisation.
What can I do if I've been discriminated against?
It’s important to know the law is on your side. If a crime is motivated by homophobia or transphobia, the police can take this into account and it can be used in sentencing.
We're here to help
We offer support through our free advice line on 0800 678 1602. Lines are open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year. We also have specialist advisers at over 140 local Age UKs.