In the UK, the average life expectancy age is almost eighty years for men, this has increased by six years over the past two decades. As the global population increases and generations get older, society must change and realise that in future, the older populations may need help. That is to say, it has become apparent that the help older generations need may have to come more from private resources as current government resources are feeling the strain already.
Members of the LGBT Community are three times more likely to live alone than our heterosexual counterparts. According to Stonewall UK, approximately forty-one percent of our LGBT Community members that are retired live alone, there is also evidence to suggest it can be lonely out there too.
Gay Retirement homes are becoming more popular in the western world. The First Gay retirement home has opened in the UK a few years back. Many in the LGBT Community fear that the standard retirement homes can sometimes feel homophobic. It is easy to understand that they may not be aware of the needs of a LGBT Community member; however, gay retirement homes are few and far between at this present time and they are also concentrated in the epicentre of global LGBT Communities.
They can also be expensive; research by Age Concern UK suggests that eleven percent of the retired population live below the poverty line.
It is also feared that a large percentage of the LGBT Community will return back into the closet, unable to go out and socialize as they once did if they were to live in the standard retirement homes or even at home.
So as a LGBT community what can we do about the issues?
Past LGBT Community actions have provided strong networks and support systems for other situations where some members may feel there is no help available. This was evident with the Buddy system, set up in the height of the AIDS epidemic to help others out. Wouldn’t a similar system be ideal in order to help our aging community? Maybe other younger LGBT Community members would be able to visit retirement homes, ensuring that those LGBT Community members living there aren’t losing touch with their roots. This may also help to reassure they are not feeling any homophobia.
How many times have you heard an O.A.P (Old Age Pensioner) reminisce about the past? Would someone enjoying their gay retirement be any different? The only exception may be the strong likelihood they cannot talk so openly to other residents of a standard retirement home, so a friendly face from the LGBT Community would go a long way.
Many in the LGBT Community have not got immediate family that they may be in contact with, and even though most have been in this situation for years, it is still lonely. They are in positions whereby they may have been forced to because they cannot live self-sustaining lives anymore, and they could feel trapped inside the house. For anyone it would be lonely, but it would be more so for someone who doesn’t feel as though they can talk openly about the love of their life to other people in fear of homophobia, as an example.
Furthermore, we must think about the transgender community too. Even though attitudes are forever changing even people within the LGBT Community will admit to being trans-unaware. After doing a recent documentary on Muslim drag Queens and Transgender in the UK Sir Ian Mckellen admitted that he was ashamed of knowing so little about this area of the LGBT Community, he even compared it to the more homo-unaware days of forty years ago. If a prolific gay man is unaware of such subjects how can we expect main stream retirement homes to understand?
Maybe what it would take is someone who already has a certain amount of knowledge of retirement homes and simply ask for volunteers to be police checked, and create it as a business or charity, charging a small fee to the retirement home in order to keep it sustainable. Allowing the retirement home to advertise throughout the LGBT Community within the immediate area, making sure the staff understands the needs of the LGBT Community at the same time, with the possibility of workshops to raise awareness further. Naturally it will also help the fight against homophobia in general.
Additionally, one of the biggest advantages is when facing gay retirement in the future, we wouldn’t be faced with the dilemma of having to leave the area we have lived all our lives in order to move to a safe environment.
Not only could such a scheme be easy to implement with the technology we have today, by simply rating the LGBT Community visitor, a reliability factor and safety level can easily be achieved. It could then be expanded to people enjoying their gay retirement at home, and may even be used in a similar way for disabled members of the LGBT Community who would love someone with a similar background to call round once a week for a coffee.
There are community schemes already running in certain areas for heterosexual needs in such a way. All is needed to be done is a couple of phone calls and maybe you could offer your time as a volunteer for anyone who is facing gay retirement.
Moreover, we should think about the years that we are still active and need interaction with others.
In the UK there is an organization called The University for The Third Age. It is a charitable organisation that meet up on a regular basis with the aim of socialising and fundraising through splinter groups organising vacations around the UK and abroad. It is affordable for most members, with day trips run throughout the year, allowing others to integrate and socialise with the members of the group.
I recently contacted U3a and they inform me that anyone is welcome but they have no record of what groups would be suited for the LGBT Community because their groups are ran as individual concerns. My concern at the moment is that of anti lgbt attitudes are higher in that over sixties, naturally as we get older this will change.
There is nothing stopping someone in the LGBT Community organising a meeting place once every month on a similar basis, maybe organising transportation. Some things don’t have to be charitable, but ran for a small profit piggy-backing on a main business. Potentially, they could use a back room of a local gay bar at early doors that would otherwise be empty at that time. By using technology it wouldn’t take too much trouble to set up a nationwide LGBT Community version of The University for The Third Age.
These are only two examples of ways we could help as a LGBT Community, but we need to ask ourselves what we can do?
What is suitable for one person may not feel right for another.
The main issue is that as a community we often don’t think about the future, maybe it’s about time we did? We all understand the struggles we have had in our own lifetimes towards homophobia, imagine what it was like for our older generation, who would have been in their twenties when homosexuality became legal in the UK. At this time Homosexual men where treated no more than criminals by certain elements of society.
Even when the law was changed back in 1967 there were parts of the original law that hindered the fight for equality and didn’t allow our sexuality to show at that time. Between the late sixties and the late nineties it was technically to hold hands in public. The first gay pride march in London 1972 raised this issue. Knowing this it is understandable why some heterosexual old age pensioners, even if you can not agree with their attitudes. Its most certainly inherited unfortunately.
Is it time we took action and do something in order to help these heroes that have paved the way for ourselves, so that when we get to the stage where we need to still socialize and be a part of the LGBT Community there is something there for us already.