Shelley Argent, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays: What do we do with ageing LGBT baby boomers?


Published on

Shelley Argent, National Spokesperson, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays delivered this presentation at the 2013 LGBTI Aged Care Forum. The two day event offers a platform for discussion on national policy issues, mental and physical health and implementing sensitive quality care and service delivery.
The forum brings together LGBTI community leaders plus senior researchers on LGBTI issues in the aged and health care sectors, to share perspectives on good practice insights for real needs as well as strategies to build community and sector capacity. For more information about the event, please visit the conference website:

1 Like
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Shelley Argent, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays: What do we do with ageing LGBT baby boomers?

  1. 1. Anything to do with LGBT is something very close to my heart because I have a gay son. And, aging is something that is beginning to emerge as a major issue for all LGBT because it has nothing to do with rights or freedoms. It’s something no one escapes no matter how much we try. On a personal level our own ageing is something we have to consider as we get on in years but rarely our children’s. Usually, it’s them worrying about us. But as parents of LGBT this is something we do consider with some trepidation, because it’s all about uncertainty and something that is still new to Carers and Community workers. When James first came out in 1995 the only right he had in this country was the right to be gay, nothing else and the issue of LGBT aging population had never been considered. However, because I wanted to be part of his life and understand his life I actively set out to understand and be part of the LGBT community which I have for the last 15 years. And over this time along with my own aging I have watched the aging process of many LGBT and listened to their concerns and have learned how the issues for them are vastly different to mine. My son James is part of the first generation who are really living their young lives honestly and openly with expectations of equality. The baby boomers, my generation are now the aging generation and have lived through turbulent times to get to where they are today. My son who is only in his mid 30’s probably doesn’t worry about this as yet, but as his mother I wonder what it will be like for him when he’s elderly and needs care. I would feel relatively confident with the belief that the individual needs and feelings of an LGBT person, up until recently have never been considered. They are or would have been just lumped in with the rest of the clients who of course are straight, probably were married only once with children and grandchildren.
  2. 2. Problem is many workers in aged care are unaware that by 2030 the ageing LGBT population will have doubled with half of this group living alone while only 13% of straight males will be in similar situations. And what’s worse for the likes of my gay son and most other LGBT is they have all lived independent self sufficient lives without needing support or assistance and the transition of needing help, can be a difficult path. Since James has “come out” LGBT now have gained economic equality, the right to be themselves in the workplace, the right to be parents and de facto rights with hopefully marriage not too far on the horizon, all which are fantastic. But up until very recently ageing for LGBT has just been a thought bubble hanging over a few heads and now with the first generation of people living out and proud aging it’s becoming a real concern and still uncertain for many. However, ageing is something that comes to us all, it’s inevitable. We don’t lose our sexual orientation on retirement or when we enter the “olds” home. To many parents I know this is a huge concern for our LGBT sons and daughters. And I would think this would be a huge concern for parents who have children who identify as transgender especially as they reach the high end of nursing care whether this be in their own home, or an aged care facility. Many suffer more discrimination generally because their issue is change in gender not diverse sexual orientation. Even in ageing there is the need for ongoing hormone treatments etc and so many transpeople and their families would be concerned that they may suffer abuse, neglect, ridicule and discrimination because of staff ignorance or prejudices. Aging for past generations of LGBT has been a negative and lonely experience for many. Friends also age, become less capable of visiting, need their own support and as we know the longer you live, the less friends you have generally, because they have all passed before you. Meanwhile, aged care for “out and proud” LGBT is just coming on to the radar of aged care workers and govt and with times changing and LGBT baby boomers like the rest of us are all starting to consider what happens when we can no longer care for ourselves.
  3. 3. This present generation is paving the way for my son, for which I am truly thankful making his aged future more certain and secure. In the past, if LGBT went into a nursing care facility they just played the game of assuming they were straight. This assumption was not only by the patients but the staff as well. So many elderly LGBT are being put firmly back into the “closet” if they need full time care and worse still many are fearful to “come out” because most facilities are run by churches or faith based groups who generally (it’s feared) do not have supportive attitudes to the LGBT community, so for some it’s like feeling they are on enemy territory. It’s the expectation in most aged care facilities of the men’s afternoon sessions of playing bowls and billiards and talking about their youth and the good old days. There is also the playful teasing of setting up the males with the ladies, or the women making a great fuss of the men in their areas. Straight old men may enjoy this, but the gay males would probably feel quite uncomfortable. It can also be difficult for LGBT to sit and reminisce openly because of fear of being judged or others having no comprehension of what they are talking about. This can apply to both patients and staff. Imagine if an old gay man or lesbian started to discuss Mardi Gras and the fun they had. Can you imagine the need for defibrillators to be handy for those with weak hearts. There is the assumption of spouse, children and grandies again which needs to be addressed. Again, its assumption, that everyone is straight. We need to ensure that treatment is non judgemental, respectful and caring. Now, with marriage equality on the horizon in this country we will no longer have accommodation for just husband and wife, it will be for husband and husband or wife and wife by the time 2030 arrive. And, this will have to be addressed quickly. Because I feel confident that many couples now who have been together for many, many years where do you put them when they need full time care?
  4. 4. I can feel pretty confident saying this because when 6 out of 60 boys in James’s year 12 class came out as gay, it’s pretty clear to me that it would be similar in the aging population. Because there are no more LGBT today than 50 years ago, it’s just they are being more honest these days. Once they remained closeted and isolated, but not now. As a society we need to educate nurses and carers about being aware of non discriminatory conversation, treating people with respect and the same dignity that we hope heterosexuals are treated. There was a study done by Curtin University in 2010 where 90% of providers believed they had never had or have LGBT as patients or clients.This same study showed that one third of the Carers said they didn’t offer a gay friendly environment and 2/3 said they didn’t believe LGBT needed special treatment. This doesn’t mean we need Priscilla Queen of the Desert running constantly, but it does mean we need to show sensitivity, and not be judgemental to traits or comments. What many people generally, don’t understand is that many LGBT have suffered abuse and discrimination and victimisation in aged care facilities in the past. And, even if the abuse is not instigated by staff it can be by other patients and needs to be stopped. As a parent I would hope that by the time my son needs aged care, sexual orientation won’t be an issue and policies are in place where LGBT will be treated fairly, sensitivity taught to nurses and carers and bullying policies in place to protect LGBT clients. For my son like most other parents I want my son to feel safe and secure and to not feel judged. This is what we expect for ourselves as we age and this is what we want for our children. I do understand it can be a risk for anyone entering an aged care facility. I spent 20 years visiting family until they passed and I felt that the more visitors each
  5. 5. person received the care was a little better and for many LGBT who don’t have the benefit of family keeping watch neglect and abuse could be a problem. And so I would encourage training on specialised medical care and sensitivity training generally. As Carers, I would be developing a climate that encourages clients to feel safe enough to be “out and proud” without fear of consequences from patients or staff who lack understanding. As everyone, who is here today will agree, all patients regardless of gender or orientation should be treated with respect and dignity. And, I hope that my son can live his life in old age as an out and proud gay man without the need of becoming closeted. In our last few years it’s important that we are kept clean, have 3 meals a day that nourish our bodies and our medications regularly that keep us alive, but nothing can beat being treated with self respect and dignity and the benefit of living our last days out honestly and without pretence. And, as a parent this is something I can’t give my son in his old age or make preparations for, only you the community workers, nurses and carers can ensure this happens for my son, James.