‘Shout louder about equality’ was the message to health and social care providers from the Take Pride in Ageing conference held at Chester Town Hall.
The gathering explored ways that older people’s care can be more inclusive to the LGBT+ community.
A major theme was that organisations such as care homes need to make their diversity policies more visible to service users to allay fears of discrimination.
Guest speaker Jane Traies, author of The Lives of Older Lesbians, Sexuality, Identity and the Life Course, told the conference: “The women I study and many others grew up and formed their sexual identities in a far less liberal social climate. So many people of my generation have lived entirely in the closet.
“Older lesbians are more likely than other groups to make use of health services but their negative expectations and their fully or partially closeted lives are challenging for service providers. Overcoming their reluctance to engage and allaying fears of discrimination are priorities.
“People who expect prejudice will not recognise acceptance and goodwill unless it is overt and lived out. Only in these ways can we have truly inclusive services.”
Other guest speakers included singer-song writer and broadcaster Claire Mooney, LGBT campaigner Paul Fairweather, Kate Thompson from The Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Professor Stephen Whittle from Manchester Law School at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Take Pride in Ageing, organised by Cheshire charity Body Positive and Silver Rainbows, the network for older LGBT+ people in Cheshire, also featured an exclusive preview of a pilot online training programme for adult health and social care professionals and a new Take Pride in Ageing accreditation scheme for service providers.
For Silver Rainbows member Michael Marlow, 68, from Frodsham, the town hall venue held a special significance.
He said: “This building is where I came out, where I kissed another man for the first time and where I felt for the first time that I belonged. It was a gay disco and I was 29. Until then I hadn’t told anyone I was gay, although I felt I was different from the age of five. I’ve now been with my civil partner for 35 years.
“Thank god there were organisations there that put their head above the parapet and made us aware these events were available. Make your services known to us before we need them not when we need them.”
A number of organisations launched a pledge to work towards improving services for LGBT+ people, including Chester Pride, Brio Leisure, Age UK Cheshire, Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) and Brightlife – a consortium of local public and third sector agencies.
Body Positive service director Sally Probert-Hill said: “We want every site in Cheshire providing health and social care to actively welcome older LGBT+ people and for that to be obvious when walking through the door.
“We need everyone – older person, carer, LGBT organisation, service provider, commissioner to stand up and play their part. We need to work together to ensure health outcomes for older LGBT people are equal to their wider peer group.”
The event was organised with the support of Brightlife and CWaC.
Find out more about Silver Rainbows by clicking here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.