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Report: Britain’s LGB Population Fears Lonely Old Age

Report: Britain’s LGB Population Fears Lonely Old Age

 

Britain’s lesbian, gay and bisexual population are far more likely to end up isolated and having less contact with family members during their old age, a first of its kind YouGov survey commissioned by the campaign group Stonewall has found.

The survey carried out in 2010, asked 1,050 heterosexual and 1,036 LGB people over the age of 55 a variety of questions on how they feel about getting older and their prospects of receiving adequate help. Now a report from Stonewall, titled Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual People in Later Life, lays out the findings and warns that there is a care “time bomb” waiting for LGB elders in the UK.

For instance, the research showed that older gay and bisexual men are around three times more likely to be single than their heterosexual counterparts, and with significantly less LGBs having children their support network is further reduced. In total, 41% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people over 55 reported living alone compared with 28% of heterosexual people.

The report says this is compounded by the fact that lesbian, gay and bisexual people are almost half as likely to regularly see their biological family. In fact, less than a quarter reported seeing family members at least once a week, compared to more than half of heterosexuals, with just 8% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people over 55 saying they see their family members more than once a week, compared to 21% of heterosexual people.

As such, the report found that lesbian, gay and bisexual people are forced to rely more heavily on formal social care. Yet, while they are nearly twice as likely to need GP and social service care than heterosexuals, over half say they are not confident that social care services will meet their needs.

Indeed, 72% of LGB respondents said they were worried about needing care later in life, with 62% of heterosexual people reporting similar concerns. Half of LGB respondents said they were worried about their housing situation, compared with 39% of heterosexuals, while 69% of LGBs said they had concerns over their health. This is compared with 59% of heterosexual people reporting similar concerns.

This consistent elevation in concerns surrounding LGB elder care means that the Department of Health and front line services need to take action, says Ben Summerskill of Stonewall to the Guardian:

“For the first time this generation of ageing gay people fully expects to be treated with respect by both public and commercial service providers,” Summerskill said.

“They want to be able to share a room in an old people’s home or to be supported through their partner’s terminal illness just like anyone else.”

Summerskill expressed concern that Britain’s care system failed to recognise that not all couples were the same.

“We’re facing a care time bomb of institutional ignorance about what a community that makes a £40bn a year contribution to public services will soon – quite properly – be demanding.”

The report offers several recommendations to elder care service providers and the Department of Health, for instance warning against the assumption that all patients are heterosexual and therein running the risk of overlooking the vulnerability that being an LGB elder currently carries.

The recommendations also stress the importance of GPs ensuring that older lesbian, gay and bisexual patients have designated a “next-of-kin” and who should be given decision making power in the event they’re unable to make health care decisions for themselves, and that lesbian, gay and bisexual care home residents should be given opportunities to socialize and meet other lesbian, gay and bisexual people to help them maintain social support networks.

You can read the full report here(.pdf).

Related Reading:

LGBT Elders Fear Abuse in Long-Term Care Facilities Says New Report

HHS: DOMA Not an Excuse for Denial of Equality in LGBT Elder Medicaid Care

HHS Plans to Collect LGBT Health Data

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Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Borya.

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31 comments

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11:10AM PDT on Sep 27, 2011

I suggest a community project specializing in social activities for the aging LGB there. Something like a bridge club but especially for LGB (but not excluding heterosexuals, of course). Maybe hold activities three times a week like short bus tours, ice cream socials, casino night, etc. It's not that hard, and the younger LGB should want to organize this, since they should realize how much they owe this older generation for beginning to pave the way of tolerance on such a historically painful path.

11:09AM PDT on Sep 27, 2011

I suggest a community project specializing in social activities for the aging LGB there. Something like a bridge club but especially for LGB (but not excluding heterosexuals, of course). Maybe hold activities three times a week like short bus tours, ice cream socials, casino night, etc. It's not that hard, and the younger LGB should want to organize this, since they should realize how much they owe this older generation for beginning to pave the way of tolerance on such a historically painful path.

5:26PM PDT on Sep 17, 2011

These folks are essentially pioneers in an alien land.People 55and older had NONE of the openness the community has today. Guilt,shame and the absolute necessity for secrecy was what they've ALREADY endured.Acceptance ,Valadation and Legalization will hopefully give the next generations more hope. In the meantime I'd like to hear that the LGBTQ community was embeacing these pioneers and caring for the FAMILY ELDERS. We ALL NEED Grandmas and Grandpas!

11:51PM PDT on Sep 15, 2011

I think that no matter what one's sexual identity is, old age is a time when one does not know when family may no longer be there. On the other hand given the possible connections in life anyone one has had before, it can be a lonely time. Our aunt was completely accepted in a
retirement home and lived her days out well there.

5:19AM PDT on Sep 15, 2011

Thanks for the article.

4:39PM PDT on Sep 14, 2011

You live long enough and you too will be "isolated and having less contact with family members". You outlive your peer group and the younger generations barely know who you are, if they know you exist at all. This is a human condition, not a gay condition.

1:48PM PDT on Sep 14, 2011

Dawid...may you reap what you sow, and with your attitude toward gays and women, you will probably someone who will die alone. Your bigotry is noted time and time again here and it's funny how you never comment on anything about articles about the pedophile priests...yet you claim to be Catholic.....so then, you must condone that evil and sinful practice...it's OK to rape kids, but not OK for consenting adults to be together....try telling God that...

12:26PM PDT on Sep 14, 2011

Just because the unenlightened don't find LGBT behavior "acceptable," that doesn't make them correct. Discrimination is ANY form is not what good-hearted people should practice. I'm straight, but my neighbors and I are very accepting and very caring of the LGBTs in our neighborhood and the nursing homes to which we can go to visit with them. One must first get to know someone who is different, before one can understand that we are much more alike than society portrays.

12:13PM PDT on Sep 14, 2011

It would be very good if some younger LGBT people could set up a visiting program to spend time with these elders. I'm sure they - and the rest of us too - would learn a lot from the stories the elders could tell.

11:52AM PDT on Sep 14, 2011

Interesting article.

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