What can be done to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people over 50?
The pandemic has had a profound impact on the mental health and isolation of LGBTQ+ people over 50. Here’s what Opening Doors London is doing to support these communities.
Laura Benin, Communications Officer at Opening Doors London, writes about the services Opening Doors provides for LGBTQ+ over 50 as well as the challenges and discrimination these communities face.
Opening Doors London (ODL) is the largest UK charity providing activities, events, information and support services specifically for LGBTQ+ people over 50.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has had a profound impact on these communities’ wellbeing. Last year, we launched our report Only Connect: The Impact of COVID-19 on older LGBT+ people. This was the first research to address the specific effect on the pandemic on older LGBTQ+ people and explored the experiences and feeling of our members during this turbulent period.
Some key findings are:
- 50% of respondents reported that the pandemic had a negative impact on their psychological wellbeing
- 18% felt much more depressed than usual
- 23% experienced worsened physical health during lockdown
- 37% felt more lonely than usual
- 27% hardly ever or never had someone to talk to
The author of the report, Professor Ben Thomas, says that COVID-19 and lockdown has disproportionately increased psychological distress and other vulnerabilities among many older LGBTQ+ people. Many have been forgotten or overlooked and it’s time statutory services and local communities step up to meet this community's needs, and provide care and support, connection and interaction.
These sometime marginalised and vulnerable communities, who may have experienced a hostile climate with little support from family, community, or statutory services, should not be forgotten or overlooked.
To help with the toll COVID-19 has taken on these communities’ mental health, ODL offers a befriending and telefriending service, as well as regular face-to-face get togethers. We also have three dementia services for people who are diagnosed with dementia and one for their carers. As the restrictions in the UK are lifted, we’re looking forward to organising more in-person events like walks, film screenings, lunch and film club and picnics.
Another issue is that research shows that older LGBTQ+ people often lack family support and rely more than their heterosexual peers on the support of social care professionals. Supported by Dr Michael Brady – the Government’s LGBT Health Advisor – and endorsed by Care England and promoted by Skills for Care, the Pride in Care ® quality standard is awarded by ODL to organisations assessed as providing quality care and support to older LGBTQ+ people.
The standard is attained through a short, step-by-step process, including a staff survey and policy review, supported by ongoing consultancy advice from specialist LGBTQ+ quality advisors. At present, 20 organisations are undergoing assessment. ODL training, based on the lived experience of our members, makes clear that there are differences in the lives of older LGBTQ+ people that need to be understood and appreciated in order to provide effective person-centred care.
These sometime marginalised and vulnerable communities, who may have experienced a hostile climate with little support from family, community, or statutory services, should not be forgotten or overlooked. That is why Opening Doors London is here, to support LGBTQ+ people aged over 50 to live full, vibrant and respected lives, free from isolation, loneliness, discrimination and prejudice.
The views and opinions expressed in this guest blog are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the policy or positions of the Centre for Ageing Better.