I think most gay men have the conversation at some point in their lives, were they discuss how they wish to spend their twilight years. Just like the fantasy game SIMS, gay men will construct a rest home, where the nurses are cloned from the genes of Brad Pitt, the loo seat are never cold and the food tastes first class. Of course most importantly all their LGBT friends will be at this rest home, sitting the south facing veranda in rocking chairs, watching the sun set, reminiscing about the good old days and how many more are yet to come.
Surprisingly, such projects, well the LGBT part, has been put in place in both America and Germany as health professionals identified that many LGBT elders entering the care system had found themselves going back in the closet for fear of being ostracised, persecuted or in some extreme cases, asked to repent for their sins against God; a very real issue that has been highlighted in Stu Maddux brilliant documentary Gen Silent.
However, the outcome from the documentary, and findings related to the exclusive LGBT care homes is that older LGBT people have no wish to live their lives in a gay ghetto, but prefer to be cared for by health professionals who understand and respect their chosen lifestyles. This same view is echoed in a report by Brighton and Hove Council who recognise that for many older LGBT people entering the care system may have reservations when discussing their sexuality. On this matter the council’s report does go on to point out that: “The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 make it unlawful for public authorities to discriminate when providing public services.” The report goes on to say: Research suggests that there is a need for specific services targeting the LGBT community but that staff training, displaying LGBT friendly signs, publicity and partnerships with LGBT organisations all improve access to advice.
Also recent news reports have highlighted at present there is a half a billion pounds short fall for the U.K. care system; so the guarantee that such projects will be implemented in the current climate is unclear.
With this in mind, I had a quick search on the internet to see what support there is for LGBT elders in Brighton and Hove. Age UK have a section dedicated to older LGBT people offering a whole range of support and information; one of the main issues highlighted is that of isolation. Groups like GEMS (Gay Elderly Men’s society) a social group for gay men over fifty have been running for the last twelve years offering practical support, friendship, and entertainment to their members. Other servicers like LifeLines, a volunteer service for people over fifty offers a buddy service, where younger LGBT people befriend an older LGBT person enabling them to join in one of the many groups and servicers listed in Gscene, RealBrighton and Zhoosh.