DURING a meet up in Sydney for older LGBTI people, some voiced the issues they faced on a regular basis.
After having to relocate from Darlinghurst to an outer Sydney suburb, one man said he became isolated. His health was declining and he wasn’t prepared to visit health services because he didn’t feel comfortable or safe being open about his sexuality.
This comes as no surprise, especially after a recent study on the experiences of LGBT people living with dementia that revealed many lost their community connections and were unable to create or access safe spaces.
In another study on trans health and ageing, older trans and gender diverse people said they faced transphobia and rejection by many aged care services.
There are many issues faced by older LGBTI people that are not on the public’s radar. ACON has a number of initiatives in place to support the community.
LOVE Project (Living Older Visibly and Engaged) co-ordindator Russ Gluyas said four critical issues were identified by older members of the LGBTI community.
“Before our health promotion work commenced there were several community consultations held, and from those consultations the key issues identified were social isolation, housing, finances, and inclusive services,” he told the Star Observer.
“I think ageism also plays a subtle part… sometimes older people can feel excluded even if there are community activities or events occuring.”
The LOVE Project is one of ACON’s health promotion programs and was established in 2014.
It aims to improve the social engagement of older members of the LGBTI community and create conversations around the current issues and possible isolation they face.
It also allows older people to share their experiences while interacting with other members of the community as a way for them to maintain healthy, active, and social lifestyles.
Gluyas said the team hosts regular events and gatherings to help older LGBTI people stay connect and establish friendships.
“The feedback’s always really positive from the social events we hold,” he said.
“We have our premier event coming up called Afternoon Delight that is ran during the NSW Seniors Festival in April. Afternoon Delight has been running for eight years now and is highly anticipated by the community.
“We get 450–500 people to this events held across the state, and people are always asking for more as a way to connect to the community.”
This year the event will be held in Sydney, Newcastle, Sawtell, Lismore, Wollongong and Wagga Wagga.
The LOVE Project is a health promotion initiative that has developed LGBTI-specific health information, in the form of fact sheets and holding self-management groups.
Gluyas said while the project currently doesn’t have the capacity to have a direct impact on the issue of housing, they will coordinate research initiatives focused on identifying and promoting models of secure and affordable housing.
“What we’re hearing is that people are having to relocate outside of metropolitan areas because they can’t continue to afford living in the city,” he said.
“Unfortunatley through doing this they may become isolated and don’t have the same friendships, supports or sense of community.
“It’s easier to be out and open closer to the city but as you get further out LGBTI groups decrease and not all older people are willing to live openly as they don’t think it’s safe to identify their sexuality.”
When the LOVE Project ran two six-week self-management groups, Gluyas said it had a positive impact.
“The groups have stayed together, starting their own social groups that meet regularly,” he said.
“We encourage them to share contact details to help maintian connecions, it’s been really good support for those who feel more isolated.”
To help target the issue of isolation and detachment from the LGBTI community, ACON also has an initiative that sends volunteers on regular visits to older LGBTI people. That Community Visitors Scheme (CVS) fosters a sense of connection to the community and works to provide elderly LGBTI people with companionship.
“The issue of social isolation is important,” Gluyas said.
“We aim to empower people to live more healthy, active lives and to stay connected.
“The community events are important for disseminating relevant health information, reducing social isolation and bringing people on board”.
To find out more about ACON’s LOVE Project, visit loveproject.org.au
**This article was first published in the February edition of the Star Observer, which is available now. Click here to find out where you can grab a copy in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.
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