Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Goldies - Tuesday mornings in Brixton for older LGBT people

Last week I atttended the coffee morning for older LGBT people in Lambeth called 'Goldies'. Yes, I am now eligible to attend older people's events as I am over 50 - attendance at Goldies is open to over 50s. The group which has been set up by Age Concern Lambeth, is a new initiative and is a badly needed one.

Richard, who runs the group, used to work for Polari, the organisation for older LGBT people which no longer exists, and told us that Polari and others had carried out extensive research which indicated that there was a great deal of social isolation among older LGBT people in London, especially in sheltered housing units. This is an important section of the community whose needs are not really met.

The commercial gay scene is very youth orientated and with the demise of many local LGBT pubs and cafes, which are now concentrated in either Vauxhall or Soho it is increasingly difficult for older LGBT people to socialise. Many older gays and lesbians do not have the family networks in place which older heterosexual people have, and consequently suffer higher levels of loneliness and isolation. Many of those living in sheltered accommodation, for instance, suffer high levels of homophobic prejudice and abuse both from other residents and from staff and carers.

Naturally such homophobia should be roundly condemned and stopped but it is good that in the last few years organisations such as Age Concern have woken up to the needs of the older LGBT community. A friend of mine who is in his 70s and lives in a sheltered housing unit in North London, has almost no contact with the rest of the LGBT community and does not feel welcome in the consumerist chic bars of Soho. For him the prospect of a group such as Goldies is very welcome and it is ironic that he is someone who played a leading role in the early gay rights movement in the 70s but now feels excluded from the community for whose rights he fought.

All elderly people are marginalised to some extent in this country but LGBT people even more so. In a rapidly ageing country where the demographic is changing very fast there will be increasing numbers of older LGBT people, some of whom have lost partners, who are going to need support. Good that organisations for older people are stepping up to the plate but the LGBT community itself should also support its older members. In the interim, initiatives like Goldies are very welcome.

Goldies meets at the Vida Walsh Centre, 2B Saltoun Road, Brixton - just facing on to Windrush Square opposite Lambeth Town Hall and a stone's throw away from the Ritzy Cinema and is from 10am to 11.30am on Tuesdays.

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