Older LGBT+ residents feel isolated, Town Hall is warned
Social workers often do not 'recognise' when an older resident is gay, says charity
17 July, 2019 — By Richard Osley
A CHARITY says it is trying to break down barriers for older LGBT+ residents who feel lost in the care home system or struggle with isolation.
Pierluigi Vullo, from Opening Doors, gave alarming examples while speaking in Camden Council’s themed debate on gay rights last week.
“There have been now numerous studies which have demonstrated how health outcomes amongst older LGBT+ people are much worse than their heterosexual counterparts,” he said. “There is social isolation, mental health [issues], drugs and alcohol, safety and security, and confidence in care. For the older generation, this is much more exacerbated. One of the key issues that our members have is the care and support from social workers who may have different personal opinions about LGBT issues and won’t recognise that an older person may have a different sexual orientation.”
He added: “This is even more difficult for people with dementia, who have lost their short term memories and they are brought back [by longer term memories] to when homosexuality was criminalised. They are absolutely terrified by hearing the door knocking because they think the police will arrest them. The people who are supposed to care for them seem to be completely unaware of the issues that these people face.”
Opening Doors was one of several groups and charities invited to speak at a full council meeting about how to help LGBT+ residents in Camden. The debate was set up after a homophobic attack on two women on a night bus last month and amid warnings of complacency.
Mr Vullo said: “This older group of people have to come out every day in their care home. The first question that is asked: ‘How is your lovely wife?’ And you have to tell them that actually you don’t have a wife because you are a gay man.”
He warned that despite some progress, many gay and lesbian residents lived in fear of abuse.
He told the meeting: “I won’t bore you with all the numbers but one of the largest studies ever done in the world was done by the UK government last year: the national LGBT survey across 100,000 people. One of the shocking numbers was that two-thirds, myself included, of LGBT+ people do not hold hands in public for fear of an attack or a negative response.”
Mr Vullo added: “If you think this is the most basic of human gestures – to hold the hand of your companion – and for your entire life you have to be watchful of who is around you before you can do this basic human gesture, then you can perhaps appreciate the scar that this has done.”
Opening Doors said it had grown to more than 2,000 members across London, all aged over 50.