Like the rest of the population, the GLBT community is facing the same problems assosciated with an ageing population. Issues of shortages in aged care services and problems dealing with a changing self image, are just as prevalent, if not more pressing for the GLBT community as the specific needs of older HIV positive people and laws prohibiting same-sex partners from spousal pension benefits create concerns.

These topics and many others are to be addressed candidly at an upcoming forum entitled Ageing Disgracefully, to be held by ACON on Monday April 28.

The night will feature high profile guest speakers from the community, including Justice Michael Kirby, Aurora Foundation co-founder Jane Marsden, Ghassan Kassiseh from the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby and ACON’s own Siri May.

Hosted by TV and radio personality as well as gay rights activist Julie McCrossin, the event is sure to be as entertaining as it is thought-provoking.

ACON president Mark Orr said he is concerned about the shortage of aged care services in NSW that are fully equipped to meet the needs of openly gay-identifying senior citizens.

There are 35,000 people in NSW over the age of 55 who identify as gay or lesbian, he said. They play a vital role in our community but are probably the most invisible and least cared for of all our senior citizens.

McCrossin said she was looking forward to getting people to talk about their experiences.

The other issues though are more service-related. About finding out whether people know about the services that are available to them and making sure that there are services out there where people feel confident that they can go and be treated fairly, she said.

There are also specific issues that have arisen for the HIV community. When the epidemic first started we concentrated mainly on dealing with acute illness and the grief. Now HIV positive people are living longer, so we need to start looking at things like, well what if these people need special home care as they get older?

Orr said he recognises the same challenge.

For people living with HIV, new treatments are helping them live longer but the same treatments are causing their organs to age more rapidly and so many will recquire early access to geriatric health services, he said.

These are all important issues that need to be discussed so ACON and other organisations can improve the situation, but we’re keen to make sure that people laugh as well learn.

Ageing Disgracefully takes place at the Belvoir St Theatre, 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills. Monday April 28. 7.30pm. Bookings: 9206 2000 or 1800 063 060.

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