Ageing LGBT Community Forced Back into the Closet?

Publish Date: 30/12/2011

As more and more people open up about their sexuality and gender identity, there must be more recognition of the ageing LGB&T population and the challenges that face them.

A recent statement from John-Paul Dennis - Head of  Kirwans Private Client Department in Liverpool - has raised awareness of the concerns of older LGB&T people around accessing care homes for "fear of acceptance", and suggests that some pretend to be heterosexual to avoid discrimination.

John-Paul said: “The LGBT community is an important part of our client base, and we are becoming more and more aware of their concerns around what will happen to them as they reach older age.

“Moving into residential care can be worrying for any older person. But when that person is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, it can raise further concerns for the individual involved.”

The lack of LGB&T or LGB&T friendly "residential homes in the UK is leading to people hide their sexuality for fear that they will be ostracised or abused amongst fellow residents who carry with them deeply engrained prejudices and misconceptions about the LGBT community.”

“I would advise anyone concerned to make a health and welfare Power of Attorney stipulating where and how they are to be cared for. Their attorney would then ensure that this wish was followed out even if they lost mental capacity.”

John-Paul’s claims follow a recent Stonewall survey, which found that lesbian, gay and bisexual people are consistently more anxious about growing older than heterosexual people.

Some 72% of those questioned said they were concerned about the prospect of needing care later in life, compared with 62% of heterosexual people, while 50% were worried about housing compared with 39% of heterosexual people.

John-Paul’s concerns are reinforced by the Rainbow Lives project that aims to tackle issues relating to the care of elderly people within the LGB&T community.

Rev Sr.Maria Renate has spent the past 12 months developing the national Rainbow Lives project alongside First Take Media and In-Trust Merseyside. Sr. Renate highlighted the situation facing some:

“At a recent Age Concern Liverpool & Sefton Silver Pride event, older LGBT people were asked about how they viewed the future. A same sex couple who have been together for two decades and who had a civil partnership in 2004, said they were prepared to have to pretend they were straight in the future.”

“They felt, that should they need to re-house or enter a nursing/care home, or receive home care, they would be inclined to hide their gayness once again, as they did for half a lifetime, rather than face slurs and whispers, or leave themselves open to hate crime. ‘As strong as I am today’, one of them said, ‘when I’m at the gate of sheltered accommodation the closet door is going to slam shut behind me’.”

The Rainbow Lives Project has developed a training package which is used by In-Trust Merseyside to provide in-house diversity training for care workers and staff of residential care homes, Housing Associations and Sheltered Accommodation.

John-Paul is now backing the Rainbow Lives Project’s call for the introduction of the Merseyside Navajo Charter Mark scheme, which would see each care home assessed on the steps they had taken to welcome those from the LGBT community into their home and make sure that they were both physically and mentally comfortable.

Feel free to post your experiences of growing older as an LGB&T person in the comment box below.

Relevant Links


  • olga

    olga delivers awareness-raising workshops to care homes on issues surrounding being lgbt. Please view our web-site:

  • Darren

    My concern is that people won't be able to live full lives and will be censured and poorly cared for. I advocate more gay and lesbian care homes. Loads of the care workers I've come across are gay - it just needs some people to organise them.

  • Jenny

    A very interesting article, even though I live in Greater Manchester. I am 65 and for 60 of those years I have been a lesbian in the closet, and only out to a very few in the last five years. I had not thought about this situation, but it has given me food for thought. I would say I personally feel that the silver gay community generally, but in my experience, especially lesbians, are treated poorly and often with derision. The young generation seem to think they invented lesbianism. We might not be cover girls but we do have feelings. I also feel that I could never come out to my employees (I still work full time) as this would definitely jeopardise my job. Thank you fro an interesting article

  • Chris

    My concerns lie not with elderly female residents but with older males especially Roman Catholic & working class.Most old people have left their sexuality behind when entering their 70s.However I think that the gay community totally underestimates the degree of prejudice that has been quietly and insidiously induced in the UK catholic community by homophobic Vatican policies promulgated since the accession of the Bavarian Joseph Ratzinger to the Papacy.In recent years as a man in his late sixties and an Anglican,it is amongst Catholics of my own age that I have encountered prejudice and sadly also insult and harassment.I shall seek when the time comes, a place amongst in an Anglican retirement home.