In February last year we posted about the need for more person-centred care for LGBT+ people. But how can we help to combat the issue of loneliness amongst older LGBT+ adults?
Who are Re-engage?
We have recently met with the charity Re-engage, who work to tackle loneliness and isolation amongst the UK’s oldest population and last year launched rainbow call companions, a service specifically for older LGBT+ people to develop new social connections
What challenges do older LGBT+ adults face?
In order to launch the service, Re-engage conducted research into the needs of older LGBT+ people, and here are some of the key themes of their research:
- Older LGBT+ people are less likely to have intergenerational relationships and children
- Older LGBT+ people will find that their family of choice is sadly dwindling
- LGBT+ older people are more likely to live alone
- Older gay men find youth-centric spaces make them feel overlooked
- For older lesbians, all too often they see loneliness as the price they have to pay for their sexuality
- Many fear going into care homes and being “forced back into the closet”
- Older LGBT+ people have reported that there are little to no services especially for them
How can rainbow call companions help to prevent loneliness amongst older LGBT+ adults?
Rainbow call companions is a free telephone befriending service for LGBT+ people who are lonely, isolated or in need of companionship and feel they would benefit from a friendly phone call every week or two. This is a service specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender plus (LGBT+) people aged 75+ who would like to speak to someone who’s also LGBT+.
Calls last for half an hour or so and you can chat about anything that interests you. What’s great is that the same volunteer phones you every time, so you can get to know each other and share stories and laughter – for as long as you both want.
Rainbow call companions has been awarded by the NHS National Advisor for LGBT Health award (2022), which recognises outstanding work by individuals and groups across the NHS and VCSE sector to improve the experience of LGBT+ patients and the LGBT+ workforce and shine a light on examples of best practice.
We spoke with Sam Higgins who is the engagement officer for equality, diversity inclusion and belonging at Re-engage who said, “It’s all too easy to become lonely at any age, regardless of your situation, but our research and my experience of speaking to people shows that older LGBT+ people are even more vulnerable to loneliness. I’ve spoken to so many people who have had a partner for decades, but found themselves completely alone after they died. Or people who were married with children but came out at a later age. People who would have been called criminals for being their authentic selves at a younger age. We are in danger of our older LGBT+ population being forgotten about or left behind, and we need to work together to stop this and support everyone who needs it.
If you think you would benefit from this service or if you know someone who would, you can make a simple online referral here: Find a rainbow call companion: LGBT+ phone befriending (reengage.org.uk) or call 0800 716543