As the co-chair of Spectrum, our lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) staff group, highlighting issues that affect older people within the LGBT community is close to my heart.
Over half of our care and support customers are older people, and as executive director for this part of our business, I have a vested interest in the health, wellbeing and welfare of our ageing population.
Research with older people within the LGBT community suggests they can become an invisible and marginalised population in later life, and their life-stories and relationships are frequently overlooked by care providers.
In a recent Stonewall survey, 73% of older LGB people said they wouldn’t feel comfortable disclosing their sexual orientation to care staff. Some may never have come out, others may have always been out, and many are out to some people but not others. Homophobia and harassment, not only from staff, but other residents living within a retirement community, are all too familiar to older LGBT people.
Research with older people within the LGBT community suggests they can become an invisible and marginalised population in later life
We are in the process of modernising our services for retirement living, taking a person-centred approach, providing more choice and control for our customers. In contrast to a generic service, this personalised way of working provides opportunities to create individual service plans, based on specific need. This ensures that LGBT older people’s ideas, opinions and thoughts about their disclosure of sexual orientation or gender identity, will be at the heart of our services.
A small scale, but significant piece of research called, As we Grow Older, was carried out by Polari in 2005. The campaigning organisation for older LGBT people discovered that 91% of the lesbians and 75% of the gay men they spoke to, wanted specific LGBT accommodation.
While this type of accommodation is clearly popular among the older LGBT community, from a personal perspective I have some concerns about creating gay ghettos, mostly because of the risk of harassment. But I also believe that diversity creates richer communities. That’s why I will continue to campaign, alongside Spectrum, for LGBT equality. Our commitment to equality and diversity and our approach to challenging discrimination within and outside of the workplace, should help all of our customers and staff feel safe and able to be themselves.