Prejudice drives older LGBT people back in the closet

Older LGBT people in Leeds care homes are hiding their sexual orientation for fear of prejudice, the council has been warned.

 

A circle of hands, representing diversity in old age.

Only a small fraction of people over 65 will admit to being LGBT, according to ONS data.

Jude Woods of the Sage project, a charity that tackles loneliness in the elderly LGBT community, raised the issue with council leaders during an executive board meeting at civic hall.

She explained: “We are still hearing some awful stories about people in care homes who may have lived out lives but are now going back in the closet because they don’t feel safe in their environment.

“In the past, a lot of these older people have faced hate crime and harassment; been fired from their jobs or locked up for being LGBT. Coming out in a care home can be hard because they don’t know if they will encounter similar attitudes. The management may adopt a policy of openness and acceptance but all the staff and other residents may not.”

A report this year by LGBT housing charity, Stonewall Housing, found that staff in care homes often lacked the required training to understand the needs of older LGBT people.

The Sage project offer training to care professionals as part of a long term approach to tackling these problems. In addition, bi-monthly meetings are held to help isolated older LGBT people engage with each other.

Paula, who was forced into a care home after her health declined, said: “Being with other LGBT people has affirmed my lesbian identity and given me a safe place to be me.”

A recent survey by the Office for National Statistics shows that only 0.6% of people over 65 answered they were gay, lesbian or bisexual, compared with 2.1% under 65. LGBT campaign group, Opening Doors, say figures such as these are always higher in reality as people feel uncomfortable admitting their sexuality.

If you would like to find out more about the Sage project or loneliness in the elderly LGBT community you can visit the Sage project website: timetoshineleeds.org/projects/sage.

by Ben Abbiss

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