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Blog: Combatting loneliness among older LGBTQ+ people

Published on 01 June 2021 09:03 AM

Research shows that older LGBTQ+ people are especially vulnerable to loneliness as they are more likely to be single, live alone, and have lower levels of contact with relatives.

They are also less likely to engage with local services, with recent findings showing that over four fifths of older LGBTQ+ people do not trust professionals to understand their culture or lifestyle.

To mark Pride this month, we spoke to our friends at Opening Doors London (ODL), the largest UK charity providing activities, events, information and support services specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, non-binary or gender fluid (LGBTQ+) people over 50.

Below, they offer advice on how to combat loneliness and stay connected if you a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Last year, our Covid-19 research showed that 27% of our members hardly ever or never had someone they could talk to and 37% felt more lonely than usual. According to Professor Thomas, Research and Policy Officer at ODL: “Covid-19 and lockdown has disproportionately increased psychological distress and other vulnerabilities among many older LGBT+ people. Many have been forgotten or overlooked.”

Studies also demonstrate that LGBTQ+ people have concerns about their safety and wellbeing in relation to housing, care and support as they get older. They are consequently likely to change their behaviours to address these concerns, such as hiding their authentic selves, ‘going back into the closet’, or living more restricted lives compared to their cisgender and/or heterosexual peers.

As they got older, some of our members said they lost the connection they had with their LGBTQ+ community and the services provided by Opening Doors are a way for them to reconnect and feel like themselves.

One of our telefriendees said:

“I felt isolated even before lockdown, so every week when I get the calls I feel like ‘I am a lesbian, I am me’. Looking forward to my calls is like the feeling of getting my pocket money - I can be me again, speak my way, talk about things that interest me without being embarrassed or self-conscious.”

Before COVID-19, we offered around 40 different events each month from singing to creating writing to walks, allowing LGBTQ+ people over 50 to meet each other, have fun and feel confident to be themselves. We also had regular in person meetings focusing on different communities such as: Bi, BAME, person of colour, trans, non-binary and people affected by dementia (and one for their carers too).

Members could also join Sunday Get Together and Friday Social and meet new people or connect with old friends regularly. Apart from attending our events, our members could get involved in our Befriending Service, where they were paired with a like-minded volunteer with whom they could connect and feel more integrated with the LGBTQ+ community.

To keep our communities safe and make sure we are providing vital services for the LGBTQ+ communities over 50, we moved our activities online offering regular opportunities for people to meet up and connect and can now assist LGBTQ+ people over 50 in the whole of UK.

Like Age Scotland, we also offer a telefriending service where members get a weekly call from a friendly volunteer once a week. To find out more about ODL and become a member click here.

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