Opening Doors is the largest UK charity providing activities, events, information and support services specifically for LGBTQ+ people over 50. Membership is totally free and Opening Doors offers more than 20 groups, both in person and online, to people all over the UK. They also offer specialist training for statutory and voluntary organisations, such as care homes, housing associations and hospitals, to help them understand the needs of older LGBTQ+ people
Living as a LGBTQ+ person in the UK in the 60s, 70s and 80s was not easy. People had to deal with a lot of prejudice and were constantly scared of being outed as this could mean losing their houses and jobs, being rejected by their birth families and even being prosecuted. Up until 1967 being gay was still illegal in the UK and even after the partial decriminalisation of private acts between men aged over 21 the prejudice was still rampant and being gay was still listed as a mental disorder by the World Health Organisation.
The 80s were an incredibly dark period for the LGBTQ+ community, when the AIDS epidemic arrived in the UK. The media referred to it as the “gay plague” and informed people it could be transmitted by touch. In hospitals, many people were refused human contact and were abandoned by their families. Many people lost most of their friends and loved ones and were never able to build their communities back.
These were the times that many of the members of Opening Doors lived in. They experienced a lot of change in society, but for some of the older members, the internalised homophobia from those days still plays a role in their lives. Many of the people Opening Doors support feel like they need to “go back to the closet” when they get older or when their partner passes away. That’s why Opening Doors offers groups so communities can meet and discuss the issues that are important to them and do activities together.
“Older LGBTQ+ people are much more likely to live alone when compared to heterosexual peers”
Older LGBTQ+ people are much more likely to live alone when compared to heterosexual peers and not count with the intergenerational support from their birth families. The connection they have with Opening Doors is the only connection they have with the LGBTQ+ community and for some more isolated members the contact with Opening Doors is the only interaction they have in their lives. Opening Doors is here to make sure no older LGBTQ+ person is left behind and can still live fun and vibrant lives.
Opening Doors also offers a telefriending service to its most isolated members. They are matched with a like-minded volunteer who will give them a call once a week, for 30 minutes. On these calls, members can feel a part of the community again and enjoy the intergenerational support.
As a part of its national expansion, Opening Doors recently launched a partnership with Friends of Dorothy, to deliver this service for LGBTQ+ over 50 in West Yorkshire! If you know anyone who would benefit from this service, please share so they can reach isolated people who would appreciate someone to chat with.
Go to: openingdoorslondon.org.uk