Older citizens in the Preston area have been awarded a £131,000 lottery bonanza – but this time, the much-needed cash is going straight to the LGBT community.

The Preston and South Ribble branch of Age Concern have been awarded the money by the Big Lottery Fund.

They will use it to help reduce the social isolation felt by people over the age of 55.

A study by the charity last year found that older lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people can have more difficulty accessing community services.

Dr Marie Riley, equality and diversity officer for Preston and South Ribble Age Concern, told PinkNews:

“When I heard the news that we were going to get the money, I was initially very shocked because lottery bids are extremely competitive.

“But people in the community are chuffed because it sends out a very positive message, acknowledging that older LGBT people do exist and sometimes have problems accessing services.

“This could be because they don’t have strong friendship groups like younger people do, or because as they age they lose mobility and lose contact with any support networks they have been in touch with.”

She added: “We are hoping to put in place some local workshop groups during events such as LGBT History month – and have lots of celebrations.”

It is thought that at least 240 of the charity’s existing users are members of the LGBT community.

The grant from the lottery’s Reaching Communities programme will be spent over five years. It will provide befriending, support and outreach services to reduce the isolation of older LGBT people in Preston and South Ribble.

A project worker will be appointed, and Age Concern hope to establish a dedicated helpline and newsletter.

Rick Sweeting, 55, has been an openly gay man for the last 25 years. He told the Lancashire Evening Post:”The problem is that when I was younger, being gay was unheard of, so many men who may have had feelings kept it to themselves and there is not an awful lot of older gay people around here.”

The charity will also introduce measures to make the wider community more aware of homophobia and its affects on older people.

Last month Age Concern in Preston and South Ribble sponsored a 3-day film festival at the University of Central Lancashire, which featured the film version of Gateway to Heaven, a play by Clare Summerskill.

The regional charity will also be publishing a book called “Nowt so Queer: Tales of LGBT Lancashire Folk.”