Older lesbian, gay and bisexual people (over 55 years) have lived through many social and legislative changes. Positive changes now include an equalising of the age of consent from 21 to 16, the repeal of Section 28, the armed forces permitting gay men and lesbians to serve, equal rights granted to same sex couples applying for adoption, the introduction of civil partnerships and the outlawing of discrimination on the provision of goods and services on the basis of sexual orientation.
The struggle to reach this level of fair treatment will have impacted on older LGB people’s lives. They may have been involved in campaigning or suffered from discrimination and sexual offences laws over the years and still be fearful of disclosing their sexual orientation.
Getting older is not easy for anyone and elderly lesbian, gay and bisexual people are often apprehensive and fearful of the consequences of disclosing their sexual orientation in a care setting.
In 2011, Stonewall published Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People in Later Life. In the first study of its kind in Britain, Stonewall commissioned YouGov to survey a sample of 1,050 heterosexual and 1,036 lesbian, gay and bisexual people over the age of 55 across Britain. The survey asked about their experiences and expectations of getting older and examined their personal support structures, family connections and living arrangements. It also asked about how they feel about getting older, the help they expect to need, and what they would like to be available from health and social care services.
1. Three in five are not confident that social care and support services, like paid carers, or housing services would be able to understand and meet their needs.
2. More than two in five are not confident that mental health services would be able to understand and meet their needs.
3. One in six are not confident that their GP and other health services would be able to understand and meet their needs.
4. More likely to be single: Gay and bisexual men are almost three times more likely to be single than heterosexual men, 40 per cent compared to 15 per cent.
5. More likely to live alone: 41 per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual people live alone compared to 28 per cent of heterosexual people.
6. Less likely to have children: Just over a quarter of gay and bisexual men and half of lesbian and bisexual women have children compared to almost nine in ten heterosexual men and women.
7. Less likely to see biological family members on a regular basis: Less than a quarter of lesbian, gay and bisexual people see their biological family members at least once a week compared to more than half of heterosexual people.
This report provides a compelling evidence base for the first time about older lesbian, gay and bisexual people in this country. It also provides practical recommendations for a range of agencies about how to improve things.
This Guide has been developed in response to the LGB People in Later Life research findings and offers practical advice to organisations providing care and support services about how to meet the needs of lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Sometimes changes to policy, staff training and awareness about the law can make things better. But often it is about simple things such as awareness and communication – individual actions will have a big impact.
We hope this advice and guidance will help care providers to improve the services they offer to lesbian, gay and bisexual people and to deliver those services with the dignity and respect that all older people deserve.
This guide is split into the following sections:
Read the full Working with older lesbian, gay and bisexual people:
A Guide for Care and Support Services
We’re hugely grateful to the organisations featured in this guide who have shared their valuable practical insights on making care and support services relevant to lesbian, gay and bisexual people.