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Care ‘time bomb’ as Britain’s one million older gay people age

Half as likely to see family often - twice as likely to rely on care

Front cover of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People in Later Life

Lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Britain are far more likely to end up living alone and have less contact with family in later life than heterosexual people, according to groundbreaking new research published by today by Stonewall. Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People in Later Life raises significant questions for how Britain responds to the needs of one million lesbian, gay and bisexual people over the age of 55. Over 2,000 older people were polled by YouGov for the research – 1,036 lesbian, gay or bisexual people and 1,050 heterosexual.

Ben Summerskill, Stonewall Chief Executive, said: ‘This pioneering research confirms what many lesbian, gay and bisexual people know anecdotally – hundreds of thousands are growing older lacking family and support structures that straight people frequently take for granted, often because they have been estranged from their families. We're also facing a care time bomb of institutional ignorance about how to serve our community properly.’

The research demonstrates that older gay and bisexual men are around three times more likely to be single than heterosexual men. And while almost nine in ten heterosexual older people have children who may offer care and support in later life, this figure is just over a quarter of gay and bisexual men and just under a half of lesbian and bisexual women.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual people are also half as likely to regularly see members of their biological family. Less than a quarter see family members at least once a week, compared with more than half of heterosexual people.

This reduced network of support – compared to their heterosexual peers – means older lesbian, gay and bisexual people are more likely to rely on formal social care. However, while they were nearly twice as likely to rely on GP and social services than heterosexual people, three in five are not confident that social care services will meet their needs.

Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People in Later Life contains wide-ranging recommendations for bodies such as the Department of Health and the Care Quality Commission as well as for frontline services.

‘Gay people make a £40bn contribution every year to the cost of our public services,’ said Ben Summerskill. ‘Quite rightly, they want the services they pay for to meet their needs.’


1) The report, downloadable at also includes observations from individual older lesbian, gay and bisexual people who participated in the research. These include:

  • ‘I fear prejudice from service providers and other residents/patients.’ Leanne, 58, London
  • ‘One doesn’t have a younger generation of family to fight your corner.’ Barbara, 62, Wales
  • ‘My family rejected me a long time ago hence no contact or support – no children and my partner of 43 years died from cancer as soon as we retired.’ – Neil, 67, North West
  • ‘I have had bad experiences with social services and carers. I was cautioned not to mention I am gay, in case a carer did not approve.’ – Harry, 74, London

2) All figures are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,050 heterosexual adults aged over 55 weighted to be representative and 1,036 lesbian, gay and bisexual adults (unweighted). Fieldwork was undertaken between 6 October and 10 November 2010.

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