As a country, we are facing major challenges to how we look after people who are getting older and how we help them to manage their physical and mental health.
Tuesday (May 14) marked the first-ever PinkNews Ageing Summit, where panellists and speakers from diverse sectors came together to discuss questions of ageing, mental health and loneliness among the LGBT+ population.
For LGBT+ people, ageing presents its own particular set of issues, due to the heteronormative nature of care and the greater likelihood that LGBT+ individuals will live alone and not have children. There are fears of abuse from staff or other residents in care homes, a lack of support from family members, and concerns about the way that the private becomes public in terms of care.
While awareness is being raised, different sectors need to work together in unity to ensure that services are being offered in an inclusive and person-centred way, the summit found. This was a common theme that arches across healthcare, housing and financial services.
The summit’s overarching themes might be sobering, but the event was one with a message of hope, filled with potential for future improvements in the lives of LGBT+ individuals.
In his keynote speech, Dinesh Bhungra, the president of the British Medical Association, spoke about some of the challenges faced by older LGBT+ people, and said that specialised healthcare should be considered for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and non-heteronormative elderly people to cater to their unique needs.
Bhugra said that nurses should be trained to look after LGBT+ people, similarly to how Macmillan nurses are trained in cancer support.
He ended his keynote speech with a challenge to policy makers: “Everyone should be able to walk through the doors of A&E and know they won’t get discriminated against.”
PinkNews Ageing Summit healthcare panel tackles loneliness
In a lively healthcare panel discussion, speakers including the NHS’ LGBT health adviser Michael Brady said tackling loneliness and isolation among older LGBT+ people can improve their overall health.
According to Helen Jones, director of MindOut, loneliness and isolation can be prevented by providing safe spaces where people can meet, something that is particularly important as older people often feel shut out of the commercial ‘scene’ that revolves around nightlife.
And in a discussion on housing, Tina Wathern, director of national engagement for Stonewall Housing, said more LGBT+ people over the age of 55 are using the Stonewall Housing advice line than ever before.
Sydney Kopp-Richardson, director of the National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative at SAGE USA, raised the issues of poverty, xenophobia and immigration and the way these issues shut people out of accessing affordable housing.
See PinkNews’ full Ageing Summit report below: