Stonewall report: Older gay people at risk of loneliness

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A report by gay rights charity Stonewall says older lesbian, gay and bisexual people are at more risk of loneliness and isolation.

The findings, to be officially launched tomorrow, were reported by yesterday’s Observer.

A YouGov survey commissioned by the charity found that older gay and bisexual men are three times more likely than heterosexual men to be living alone.

While nine out of ten older heterosexual people have children, the same is true for just over a quarter of gay and bisexual men and half of lesbians and bisexual women.

LGB older people are more likely to be single and are less likely to see their families regularly, the research found.

Studies have found that loneliness in old age is linked to depression and poor health.

In January, a group of charities including Independent Age and Age UK Oxfordshire said “intense” loneliness was linked to problems with the immune and cardio-vascular systems and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, told the Observer: “This pioneering research confirms what we already knew intuitively, that there are hundreds of thousands of lesbian and gay people growing older without the same family and support structures that many straight people enjoy.

“Quite often, that’s because their own families have disowned them just because of the way they were born.”

The research found that older LGB people are more likely to rely on formal support services, rather than family and friends.

However, three out of five people questioned felt that services such as GPs, social services and housing providers could not meet their needs.

Half said they would be uncomfortable coming out to care home staff.

Mr Summerskill said older LGB people’s needs included being able to share care home rooms with same-sex partners or to be supported through partners’ terminal illnesses.

He added: “We’re facing a care time bomb of institutional ignorance about what a community that makes a £40bn a year contribution to public services will soon – quite properly – be demanding.”

The YouGov survey questioned 1,050 heterosexual and 1,036 LGB people over the age of 55.