Often living alone and without children, ageing gay men and lesbians can be a vulnerable and lonely part of the community.
The particular needs of the ageing gay and lesbian population in the Blue Mountains are the focus of a volunteer initiative that started in Katoomba this week.
The group running the project is called Lemonaids and Gaytoraids, and is being set up to help care for the mountains community between Woodford and Mt Victoria.
Seven volunteers turned up for the first training session at the Blue Mountains Women’s Health Centre on Saturday 29 July.
Jocelyn Williams and her partner Anne McKenzie, the two women behind the gay and lesbian website pinkmountains.com, came up with the idea for the group.
Williams says she first identified the need for such a service three years ago when an ill and elderly lesbian in the local community was requesting some queer-friendly care and assistance.
She didn’t have kids, she wasn’t out and was quite closeted, and while the local neighbourhood centre tried to find her some support from a lesbian, they couldn’t find anyone, Williams said.
That really triggered the idea that this is something many gays and lesbians are going to need to face as we get older. But it is not just about ageing, it is also the people who are isolated or have a disability and don’t feel comfortable being totally out. It is about support for people who might feel vulnerable.
When we presented the idea to the volunteer care coordinators at the Katoomba and Mid Mountains Neighbourhood Centres, they loved it and have really supported it.
Lemonaids and Gaytoraids volunteers are being trained to provide services like shopping, doctor’s visits, pet care, library visits and home cleaning.
With the first training session completed, there are already another 10 volunteers signed on for the next training session.
The service is now being advertised to potential clients through pinkmountains.com website, as well as through the Katoomba and Mid Mountains Neighbourhood Centres.
Once the word is out there, hopefully we will get clients calling in so we can help set them up with a Lemonaid or Gaytoraid, Williams says.
It is often said that one day we will need nursing homes that are specifically for gays and lesbians. Whether that ever happens, I don’t know, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.
The Lemonaids and Gaytoraids service can be contacted through Marlene on 4782 1117 or June on 4759 2771. Additional information is on the Pink Mountains website.