Pioneering Chester care conference will be told ‘older people are gay too’

Care services for older people have traditionally been delivered on the assumption all clients are heterosexual because being lesbian, gay or transgender (LGBT) was something to be ashamed of during that generation’s younger years.

Now a pioneering conference at Chester Town Hall will help shape services to take account of the health and social care needs of members of the LGBT community who were brought up in an age when such feelings were often hidden.

Over the last 50 years societal attitudes and laws have become more liberal.

Chester Pride outside Chester Town Hall where the conference will be held.
(Photo: Ian Cooper)

But conference organisers, Silver Rainbows – the network for older LGBT people in Cheshire – explain that while older LGBT people have lived through these changes many can still struggle to feel safe being open about their orientation or even ‘coming out’.

Silver Rainbows say as they age, it’s important they’re able to be themselves with the carers and services they may need.

Some may have been married for most of their life and only contemplate coming out after their loved one has passed away.

The Take Pride in Ageing Conference, being held on July 13, will give older LGBT people the chance to express their hopes for their future and share their lived experiences from the 1940s onwards.

It will also be an opportunity for health and social care professionals to gain an insight into best practice and make sure they are meeting the needs of older LGBT people, to help them live well and enjoy later life.

The Take Pride in Ageing Conference, being held at Chester Town Hall on July 13, will give older LGBT people the chance to express their hopes for their future and share their lived experiences from the 1940s onwards.

Sally Probert-Hill, service director of the charity Body Positive, which runs Silver Rainbows, said: “The big problem is the assumption of heterosexuality towards this generation, and we need to tackle this idea.

“To understand somebody’s present, you need to know about their past. Older LGBT people may still carry feelings of fear and shame, having grown up in a time where they had to hide their true selves.

“As more people are living longer, it’s more important than ever to make sure services are geared up to support sexual diversity.

“The conference will further understanding of what LGBT service users have lived through and how this affects their current needs. It will also give older LGBT people a voice in shaping the care they receive.”

Conference organisers say:

■ There are an estimated 1,400 older LGBT people at risk of isolation and loneliness in Cheshire West

■ Older LGBT people are two and a half times more likely to live alone

■ They are four and a half times more likely to have no children to call upon in times of need

■ Older LGBT people are far more likely to feel isolated and suffer from mental health issues

Sally added: “This generation grew up in very different social times to young LGBT people today. The Sexual Offences Act 1967, which partially decriminalised male homosexuality, was a turning point for the LGBT community, but many remained in hiding emotionally.

“Some people from this generation are not coming out until their 70s. The next step is making sure the right support is in place as they age, to help them live life to its fullest.”

There will be a range of guest speakers, including singer-songwriter and broadcaster Claire Mooney, writer, researcher, storyteller Jane Traies, LGBT campaigner Paul Fairweather, trans equality campaigner Jenny-Anne Bishop OBE, Kate Thompson from The Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Professor Stephen Whittle from Manchester Law School, at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Singer-songwriter Claire Mooney will be a guest speaker at the Chester event

The conference is supported by Brightlife, a consortium of local public and third sector agencies, and Cheshire West and Cheshire Council . It will feature an exclusive preview of a pilot online training programme for adult health and social care providers and a new Take Pride in Ageing accreditation scheme for organisations providing services for older people.

Tickets are priced £75 and include lunch and refreshments. Entry for Silver Rainbows is free. To book click here , contact Body Positive on 01270 653150 or email health@bpcnw.co.uk

Find out more about Silver Rainbows: www.facebook.com/SilverRainbowsCheshire/ or email info@silverrainbows.co.uk.

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