“In this day and age, when people are more open and able to speak freely about their sexuality, some of the older generation are still a little bit more reserved with it. It’s important that once they’ve come out and been themselves … that 20 years later they don’t feel like they can’t be themselves, and aren’t discriminated against.”
-Carl Austin-Behan, Manchester’s first openly gay Lord Mayor
Moving to a care home in later life is like moving to any other community. There are people you haven’t met before, who come from different parts of society and backgrounds to yourself, a new and different culture to adapt to, and new ways of doing things which are perhaps not quite what you have been used to before.
For a member of the LGBT community, making such a move can be additionally challenging, as, when meeting new people and trying to build new friendships, old prejudices against gay people that may have been tackled before could come back into play, making it increasingly difficult for those affected to integrate into their new environment and community.
Rainbow Bridge, one of the Ageing Better groups has been set up to bridge the gaps between Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Heterosexual communities, and, last week, as a change from their usual drop in coffee and networking at Holloways café in Birmingham, they chose to visit the Aspley House Care Home, one of the homes run by the Black Country Housing group, situated near Old Hill in the Heart of the Black Country.
There I met the leader of the Rainbow Bridge Group, Jonathan Haden, a professional Historian whose job it is to validate artefacts and amaze and educate others about our country’s rich heritage and fascinating history - stories and knowledge that is often hidden away from many of us.
Jonathan explained about how the group aims to break down barriers and encourage true integration between people from all backgrounds, and to help to remove the stigma and prejudices that are faced by many people within the LGBT community, including those who are now spending their lives in the new community of a care home or supported older people’s community.
Other members of Rainbow Bridge enjoying Coffee and Cakes at the Apsley home included Mick, an ex-RAF man who worked as an engineer at Severn Trent and now lives in Birmingham and enjoys the companionship of the Rainbow Bridge group as well as being a keen walker, interested in books and expanding his personal knowledge of Spanish.
….and Beryl, once a professional teacher, she now provides individual tuition and support for young people with Dyslexia and Tourette’s – helping them face these challenges and supporting them in their education and life journey.
It was Jonathan who originally set up Rainbow Bridge and he explained how there have always been a number of activities and resources for the LGBT community, however, he could also see a need for more coordination so that people are even more aware of what’s available and so are brought together as diverse communities in Birmingham.
And, as Maria Hughes, the network enabler for the Birmingham LGBT centre explained, support from Ageing Better is further helping them to raise awareness, to run events like the LGBT information fair in September, to encourage culture in Art Exhibitions, to build diverse communities in this great city of ours….
Rainbow Bridge hold a weekly networking coffee morning to ‘break the ice’ so that people can meet each other and get a taste of what different community groups can offer. Events run on Tuesdays starting at 11:00 a.m at the Holloway’s Café, 38 Holloway Circus, Birmingham, B1 1EQ
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Advice for lesbian, gay, bi and trans older people moving into residential housing and care homes can be found on Alzheimer's Society here, on AgeUK's website here and through Stonewall's website here.