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How can we support older members of the LGBTQ+ community?

In 2017, between 871,000 and 1.2 million people in the UK’s LGBTQ+ population were over the age of 65. Care providers and LGBTQ+ advocates have documented the unique concerns faced by older members of the LGBTQ+ community. The combination of their age with their sexuality or gender identity can raise challenges.

A history of fear

The Sexual Offenses Act decriminalised homosexual activity between men over 21 in England and Wales in 1967. For many older members of the LGBTQ+ community, the fear of being arrested for who you are is within living memory. As a result, many of these people are fearful of prejudicial treatment by care staff as a result of their sexual or gender identity.

Some have reported ‘re-entering the closet' by pretending to be heterosexual or cisgender to avoid homophobic and transphobic abuse within care homes or day centres. Even those confident enough to express their sexuality within such environments have reported further issues when trying to gain next-of-kin status for their partners.

As a result, there is a growing demand for carers to take part in mandatory LGBTQ+ awareness training. Captain Cat Burton, who came out as transgender at the age of 58, recently shared her worries about the treatment of transgender people in care environments.

"The dignity issues are enormous. We have specific needs which most care homes would not appreciate until they've got transgender patients in large numbers."

Building communities

For older members of the LGBTQ+ community living outside of care home settings, isolation can be a real issue. Some people may have ‘come out’ later in life, and as such are unaware of, or feel disconnected from, their local LGBTQ+ community. Especially as there is a tendency to view so-called ‘gay scenes’ as environments designed for younger people.

Others might experience familial abandonment as a result of coming out. When LGBTQ+ rights charity Stonewall surveyed older LGBTQ+ people, one respondent said,

“I would like to think that my daughter will speak to me again. My two grandchildren (eight and four) don’t know me.”

As a result, older LGBTQ+ people rely on developing new social and support systems, but these can be hard to come by.

Support in North Tyneside

Age UK North Tyneside are proud to offer information and social groups for the over 50 LGBTQ+ community in North Tyneside. Our Volunteer and Community Coordinator says,

“Our LGBTQ+ groups are run primarily as social groups where people can come together in a safe and friendly environment to have chat, watch films, take part in activities, have talks from guest speakers and sometimes go out on trips. Members also offer peer support to one another where needed, sharing their experiences and stories to help and support new members to the group and welcome and encourage friends and family to attend. We have recently secured funding to set up 3 new LGBTQ+ groups in North Tyneside, which will follow the same model as our existing groups. We are looking for suggestions of locations, days and times and will also be starting to take expression of interest to inform people when a new group begins.”

To find out more about the support available, please call us on 0191 287 7012 or email Community.Development@ageuknorthtyneside.org.uk.

Additionally, our social enterprise, EveryDay Care & Support, works with award-winning care staff to offer care services both at home, and in our fantastic day centres across North Tyneside, whatever your gender or sexual identity.

Useful publications on LGBTQ+ issues and later life

You can view, download or print from the links above

Useful publications on LGBTQ+ issues and later life

You can view, download and or print for sharing from the link below

Useful Links