Why talking about LGBTQ+ in later life is important
1st Jul 2022 - Written by Katy Westaway
Reading time: 3 minutes
Today marks 50 years of the Pride movement in the UK, with the UK’s first-ever pride march taking place on 1 July 1972.
The first UK Pride march was held in London at a time when the LGBTQ+ community still faced discrimination from both people and the law. It was attended by around 700 participants and was a pivotal point in the campaign for LGBTQ+ rights.
Although Pride is an opportunity to celebrate all that has been achieved, that progress cannot be taken for granted, particularly in the older community.
While sexual orientation and gender reassignment are now protected by the Equality Act 2010, past experiences of discrimination can have a lasting impact on the health of older LGBTQ+ people.
Find out more about the problems facing the older LGBTQ+ community, and how you can show your support.
Problems facing older LGBTQ+ people
According to the International Longevity Centre UK (ILCUK), LGBTQ+ people aged 50+ “have poorer self-rated health and are more likely to have other conditions that impact their health and wellbeing.”
In the past, many LGBTQ+ people faced difficulties accessing health services, and this can cause effects on both physical and mental wellbeing, alongside difficulty when moving into care settings as a result.
Older people in the LGBTQ+ community grew up in a time when being gay wasn’t widely accepted by the people or the law, and the effects caused difficulties accessing health services. The results of this mean older adults may fear visiting health care providers due to past experiences of discrimination.
Statistics show that 18% of older LGBTQ+ people would feel uncomfortable disclosing their sexual orientation to their GP, and their attitude towards health services is affected by previous experiences.
Many older members of the community also struggle to access healthcare that deals with their sexual identity.
Loneliness and mental health
1.4 million people in England aged 50+ experience feelings of loneliness, and this can be more prominent in the LGBTQ+ community where people may struggle to connect with others as their authentic selves.
According to Stonewall, 41% of lesbian, gay and bisexual older people live alone compared to 28% of heterosexual older people, and older LGBTQ+ people are less likely to regularly see biological family members.
Dementia & care settings
Living with dementia can cause added difficulty to LGBTQ+ people. People may find it difficult to find support that’s right for them, and memory loss can make it hard to remember who they have told about their gender or sexual identity.
In addition, older memories may stay with people living with dementia longer than new ones, which may cause feelings of distress, particularly if the person has experienced prejudice or discrimination in the past.
Research shows that when moving into a care setting, older LGBTQ+ people are less able to avoid discrimination, which reflects a loss of autonomy.
How you can support the older LGBTQ+ community
To understand a community, you need to understand its history. It is important to learn about what LGBTQ+ people have sacrificed to see how much has changed and how much more we still need to do.
Learning about their history can help you better understand and empathise with the struggles older LGBTQ+ people may have faced, which puts you in a better position to show your support.
At Brunelcare, we’re proud to be working with Stonewall Housing to develop a training programme for our colleagues. The programme will ensure all colleagues understand the history of the community, to help them better support LGBTQ+ colleagues and customers.
Use inclusive language
The way a person identifies can be a big part of their identity, particularly if this is something they struggled with growing up.
Take the time to learn LGBTQ+ terms and make sure you are using a person’s correct pronouns when referring to them. If you’re unsure and the situation is appropriate, ask them the correct pronouns to use.
While standing up to discrimination can be intimidating, it’s important to speak out when you hear hateful or discriminatory language. Be an ally by making it clear that discrimination is not tolerated in your community, and help relieve pressure on members of the LGBTQ+ community who may not feel comfortable intervening.
- Age UK: LGBTQ+ resources
- LGBTQ+: Living with dementia
- #AgeingWithPride: Stories from the older LGBT+ community
- ILCUK: Health inequalities among older LGBT people in the UK report