Loneliness and social isolation are a reality for many people in our communities, old and young alike. There are a number of factors that contribute to these issues, but one that’s less often discussed is the social impact of intolerance, distrust and hostility experienced by some older members of our LGBT communities.
In May 2017, a six-week project run by Wandsworth LGBTQ+ Forum, in co-production with the Furzedown Project, was set up to run a coffee morning specifically for the LGBT over 50s community in the area: The Wandsworth LGBTQ+ 50+ Coffee Morning. This project was set up to support the often over-looked needs of this section of the community and was such a huge success that over 12 months on, the coffee mornings are still going strong.
Taking place every Thursday morning between 10am and noon, the coffee mornings welcome anyone over the age of 50 who defines as LGBTQ+ from all across London. Although the group have a strong local membership, many attendees come from much further afield, attracted by the informal, relaxed, warm and friendly environment. The sessions allow people to meet new friends, attend talks given by guest speakers and get involved in other social activities.
The chairman of the Wandsworth LGBTQ+ Forum, David Robson, said projects like this are in demand nationally. ‘’There appears to be a ‘one size fits all’ model for older people care that ignores the diverse cultural needs of our community. This project is a starting point to show people that at whatever age you get to, there will always be a need for LGBT people to be with other LGBT people.”
Opening Doors London is a charity that specifically provides support and information for older LGBT communities across the UK. Director, Alice Wallace comments:
‘We know that ageing presents both opportunities and challenges, but within the older LGBT+ communities the outlook is often more complex and sometimes less positive.
“Opening Doors London really appreciates being able to work with local LGBT+ networks such as the Wandsworth LGBTQ+ Forum. Together we can reach out to isolated and less connected people from the LGBT+ communities and provide services and support to ensure that older LGBT people can live happy, healthy and independent lives, free from loneliness, isolation, prejudice and discrimination.’
It is unclear how many other social groups for the older LGBT community there are across the UK – if any – and indeed the Wandsworth LGBTQ+ 50+ Coffee Morning is still the only such group in South London.
If you attend, or know of, a similar group, or if you’d like to find out more about starting your own, please contact the Wandsworth LGBTQ+ 50+ Forum by visiting: www.wandsworth.lgbt/community/lgbt-coffee-morning/ or by telephone 0207 498 9933