Social Connectivity Report

Staff WriterAdvocacy, GRAI News, Research

Social Connectivity

A peer-led program for social connection and healthy ageing in the LGBTI+ Perth community

A GRAI Initiative compiled by Jude Comfort Consultancy

Background

There have been considerable advances in the recognition and rights of the LGBTI+1 community in Western countries including Australia. There are still challenges that face the community which manifest as higher rates of mental health issues, social isolation, loneliness, covert discrimination, family of origin issues etc. While such issues are also found across the broader older age group, LGBTI+ elders face unique issues that often impact on their well-being. In particular as noted by Rogers (1, 2) and others this includes:

  • Invisibility and social isolation
  • Marginalisation by service providers

This paper presents a short background on the social challenges faced by many LGBTI+ elders and proposes a peer-led2 program that seeks to address some of these issues. It builds on the work of GRAI3 as presented in a draft report on a social outreach project proposal (3). In the first instance it is proposed that GEOC (GLBTI Elders Optimising Connection) is run as a pilot program for one year (ideally a two-year framework would be preferred but pragmatically it may be easier to gain funding for one year). A pilot program allows for an evaluation of a longer-term sustainable program and to learn and adapt the program as required.

GRAI, based in Perth, Western Australia has long been a champion advocating for more inclusiveness and support at all levels for LGBTI+ elders. This has included specifically targeting aged care providers through a federally funded program to promote inclusive practice for LGBTI+ clients and staff. GRAI has also worked hard to provide social activities for elders through such events as movie nights, a lunch club for older lesbians, discussion afternoons and intergenerational events such as the successful ‘talking generations’ afternoons. There are few other organisations dedicated to the needs of older LGBTI+ adults or who run a program within their wider community program that is specifically directed to LGBTI+ elders. However, GRAI is aware that not all LGBTI+ elders are attracted to or participate in these or any programs.

To date GRAI projects have largely been led by the Chair, other board members, volunteers, paid trainers and wherever possible include peer input. GRAI also has a history of working well with several existing social groups within the LGBTI+ community including Prime Timers (a social networking organisation, established in 2003 for mature gay and bisexual men) (4) and Pride WA (5).

Research suggests that programs that involve older LGBT+ adults in the design, planning, and execution of services, are likely to be more sustainable (6). Many elders have well-developed skill sets that could be called upon to assist in running social connectivity programs, especially where a peer-led approach is used. Self-representation by elders is a matter both of dignity and effectiveness. For example, GRAI has invited panels of LGBTI+ elders to speak at seminars for the aged care sector, where elders’ contributions had a powerful and cogent impact.

Completed by Dr Jude Comfort Jude Comfort Consultancy Jude.comfort@gmail.com

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