Older Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans People: Minding the Knowledge Gaps

Lead Research Organisation: University of Surrey
Department Name: Sociology

Abstract

There is a growing awareness that although lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people, aged over fifty, will in part share a common reality with all older people, their lives will be strongly and sometimes negatively affected by the social organisation of gender and sexuality within society, both in terms of the legacy of the past and present circumstances. For our purposes we are counting people over 50 as 'older' but not necessarily 'old'. The social and legal environment, in which these people have lived their lives has changed significantly over the course of their lifetime. Those who came out or transitioned in earlier decades faced considerable challenges while those coming out or transitioning in later years do so in a very different context. Different generations of LGBT people and the age at which they identified as LGBT and came out or transitioned will have been shaped by the prevailing social attitudes and norms of the time.
Despite a growing number of academic researchers who are investigating the lives and needs of older LGBT people, in addition to recent legal and policy changes that have sought to promote equality, there remain some issues that have not been addressed adequately. This seminar series will bring together academics, policy makers, service providers and older LGBT activists and community members to debate major gaps that exist in knowledge and practice and to formulate ways to address them.
Based on a thorough review of existing studies and through work with academics, policy makers, service providers and older LGBT people six one-day seminars are planned to cover areas where knowledge is currently lacking: older bisexual people's lives; older trans people's experiences; race, ethnicity and religion in older LGBT people's lives; economics, resources and social networks; intergenerational issues; and health and social care. Each seminar will commence with two guest speakers, followed by a question and answer session. Subsequently, a workshop will take place during which delegates will be asked to formulate two 'points of action', things that they could do in a professional or personal capacity that would bridge a current gap in knowledge and ultimately benefit older LGBT people. A final showcase conference at the end of the seminar series will allow delegates to review progress on their 'points of action', to consider challenges and successes and to think about what steps need to be taken next. Overall, the seminar series is concerned to empower individuals from diverse backgrounds, to fill in gaps in existing knowledge.

Planned Impact

The outputs developed from the seminar series will be of particular benefit to older LGBT adults in terms of improving knowledge of their lives for service providers and enabling older LGBT people themselves to be central to the generation of new knowledge. It is important that within this community, groups that are sometimes marginalised, or whose views are not often heard, such as those without significant financial resources or those who are from minority ethnic (BME) communities are also able to participate. A number of travel bursaries will be made available to unwaged older LGBT people. To gauge the impact on older LGBT delegates an evaluation feedback sheet will be used at the end of each seminar and the final conference. The evaluation will also include a request for equality monitoring information i.e. gender, ethnicity.
LGBT organisations/advocates
One criticism levelled at mainstream LGBT organizations is that they pay insufficient attention to the needs of older LGBT adults. While not dismissing the validity of this claim, it should be acknowledged that this situation is beginning to be challenged, mainly by current cohorts of older LGBT adults themselves. This has resulted in a rapid growth of grassroots organisations run by and for older LGBT adults, for example Age of Diversity, an organisation based in the south of England which provides information about support services for older LGBT adults. LGBT organisations will directly benefit by participating in the seminars, but especially the final conference. In addition, a report of the key learning gained from the seminar series will be made available to LGBT organisations on request.
Service providers
Organisations involved in service provision to the older population are becoming increasingly aware of the unique needs of older LGBT adults. At both a local and national level, this has resulted in the development of LGBT specific networks (for example many local authorities have LGBT Networks and Forums), while other service providers have sought to incorporate the needs of this group into existing policy and practice through diversity and equality training. The seminar series is specifically designed to engage with and benefit service providers in this respect and where organisations are not directly involved as participants i.e. in workshops many will nonetheless be exposed to the knowledge generated in the series through the final conference or via the planned publication. Hence, it is the aim of the seminar series to benefit as wide a group of service providers as possible; to not only learn about the outcomes of the series, but also its practical accomplishment. The impact on service providers attending the seminars and final conference will be assessed through an evaluation questionnaire.
Third Sector Organisations
A number of third-sector organisations will be invited to the seminars and to the final conference. These include Age UK, Mind, National Association for Voluntary Organisations and Citizens Advice. The impact on their understandings and practice will be assessed by the end of event evaluation questionnaires. In addition, these and other third-sector organisations will also, on request, have access to the final seminar report produced by the co-applicants.
Collaboration and Networks
The series will provide an opportunity for participants to develop collaborative partnerships with other organisations who may attend the seminars and final conference or with those who learn about it via the funding bids and edited collection that are developed. Hence, its impact will extend beyond the finite limit of the series itself. Dissemination of ideas through the edited book will facilitate academics and practitioners and a JISC mailing list will be established for all seminar delegates, so that ideas and debates can continue to be exchanged for all seminar delegates, so that ideas and debates can continue to be exchanged after each session.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The Seminar Series was designed to explore a series of gaps in knowledge about the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people over the age of fifty. This was achieved through six themed seminars/workshops. Each seminar was composed of presentations by academics or researchers, a question and answer session and an afternoon workshop and group feedback session. Participants were able to discuss key points from the presentations in the workshop and by working together in small groups, develop new ideas and knowledge. This was recorded on posters and post-it notes.
Four key achievements:
1) Identifying new research questions/ research agendas - at each seminar time was given over for participants to identify what research questions they thought needed to be developed related to that particular area of LGBT ageing: for example, at seminar one, participants were asked to discuss what they felt were knowledge gaps relating to bisexual ageing and suggest ways to address them. This pattern was repeated across the other seminars. From this process we clearly showed that more research, activism and policy-making were needed, particularly in relation to race/ethnicity, trans ageing and older bisexual people's lives. However, issues pertaining to funding, not only for research involving older LGBT people, but the services they use, needs to be considered in greater detail.
2) Bringing together different audiences - one of the most significant achievements of the seminars and the final conference was the diversity of the audience. This was a central goal of the series - to bring together academics, policy makers, representatives from charities and third-sector organisations, LGBT activists and community members. Such a mixed audience required considerable expectation management and ensuring that people spoke to each other's agenda. It, nevertheless, was assessed very positively in end-of-seminar feedback sheets.
3) Developing new knowledge - as a result of the seminar series the organisers have collaborated on two joint publications: one is a book chapter, Westwood, S, A King, K Almack, Y-T Suen, and L Bailey. 2015. "Good Practice in Health and Social Care Provision for LGBT Older People." In Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Health Inequalities, edited by J Fish and K Karban, 145-158. Bristol: Policy Press. The co-organisers are also now editing a collection of new research articles, to be published by Routledge in 2016 entitled: 'Older LGBT people - minding the knowledge gaps'.
4) Key recommendations from the series - a need to better understand, respect and validate diversity and intersectionality in relation to LGBT ageing. That older LGBT people should be included in mainstream ageing research and LGBT research, generally. Issues of difference, privilege, advantage and disadvantage within and amongst older LGBT people needs further consideration. Ageing and LGBT activist organisations need to better represent and give voice to older LGBT people. More robust data is needed in several areas, but is most pressing in relation to housing and social care.
Exploitation Route As a result of this seminar series a number of concrete initiatives have developed:
1) Formation of an older LGBTQ people's Forum - this is composed of a number of the seminar series organisers and presenters, in addition to activists, community members and policy-makers. A website has been created, a national survey conducted to assess what people want from such an organisation (and decide on its name) and what they feel are the pressing needs of older LGBT people. The aim of the Forum is to be a national body to represent the needs of older LGBT people.
2) SAFE Housing Project - developed by two of the seminar series organisers, Dr Andrew King and Dr Sue Westwood, and funded by the University of Surrey, this pilot project looking at older LGBT people's housing needs, preferences and choices is running from March-Sept 2015 in London and Shropshire. It involves a number of third-sector organisations who attended the seminar series.
3) Bisexual Lives Project - undertaken by one of the seminar series organisers, Dr Kathryn Almack and a presenter at the older Bisexual lives seminar, Dr Rebecca Jones, this project is taking forward the need to address the lack of knowledge about bisexual ageing.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://www.surrey.ac.uk/sociology/research/researchcentres/crag/seminar_series/index.htm
 
Description Since the completion of this seminar series a new older LGBT people's forum has been created. This forum brings academics, community members and representatives from organisations together. Its objectives are still being formulated, but it is anticipated that it will act as a knowledge hub and help support future research. In 2016, as a result of the seminar series, the University of Surrey commenced a new project, SAFE Housing - older LGBT people's housing experiences, concerns and preferences.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Education,Healthcare,Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services