Intergenerational programmes and LGBT people

How can LGBT people of different age groups support each other? This is a key question that the ESRC seminar ‘Intergenerational issues and LGBT people’ held at Oxford on 9th September 2013 aimed to address. The seminar brought together around 40 people – including academics, policy-makers, service providers, third-sector organisations, and advocacy groups – among them younger and older LGBT people.

Older and younger LGBT people have grown up under vastly different socio-historical circumstances. The priorities of needs and concerns of different age groups would be different. Even within the ‘community’ itself, especially among gay men, the focus on youth means that ageism against older people can be rampant. At the same time, reverse ageism against younger people, characterizing younger people as shallow and worry-free, is not uncommon. All these can lead to an impression that younger and older people are marked by ‘differences’ and different generations of LGBT people are torn apart from each other.

However, it needs to be recognized there are similar difficulties both groups face. Despite the speed and extent to which society has progressed on LGBT issues, both older and younger LGBT people still face minority stress on a daily basis, which is related to a range of mental health issues, such as social isolation, discrimination and depression. Service providers, be they educational and employment providers in the case of younger LGBT people, or care homes or day care centres in the case of older LGBT people, still work on heteronormative assumptions. Staff in such settings generally remain ignorant and unaware of, if not hostile towards, LGBT issues.

The International Longevity Centre (ILC) thus argued the case for intergenerational projects as a way to bring older and younger LGBT people together. It was argued that the range of benefits can include:

•    Unifying a diverse community;
•    Reducing age stereotypes;
•    Development of social skills and confidence;
•    Development of practical skills;
•    Exposure of young LGBT people to older LGBT role models;
•    Improved understanding of the needs of older and younger LGBT people;
•    Preservation and increased awareness of LGBT history;
•    Sharing lifecourse experiences and providing social support. (ILC 2011: 5)

It has been repeatedly pointed out in previous posts (http://revaluingcare.net/older-peoples-day-including-older-lgbt-people/, http://revaluingcare.net/a-darker-side-to-care/ ), that older LGBT people can be particularly in need of formal care because they are less likely to have children and more likely to live alone than their heterosexual counterparts. On a point related to this, The ILC argued that intergenerational projects can provide older LGBT people with the opportunities ‘to develop informal relations with younger LGBT people that could ultimately lessen the need for heavy reliance on social care providers, or may help in negotiating relationships with these’ (ILC 2011: 10).

Of course this is not to say it is easy to bring different generations of LGBT people together. But if intergenerational projects could help to bring about a more caring LGBT community that is defined more by empathy and mutual understanding across age groups, how it can be done would deserve more discussions.

Reference:
International Longevity Centre (2011) Celebrating Intergenerational Diversity An evaluation of three projects working with younger and older Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people. http://www.ilcuk.org.uk/files/Report_1.pdf

Yiu Tung Suen is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (E-mail address: suenyiutung@cuhk.edu.hk).

‘A Stronger Voice for People with Dementia’ by the Dementia Advocacy Network (DAN)

What is advocacy?

The Advocacy Charter (produced by Action for Advocacy) defines advocacy as “taking action to help people say what they want, secure their rights, represent their interests and obtain services they need.  Advocates and advocacy schemes work in partnership with the people they support and take their side.  Advocacy promotes social inclusion, equality and social justice.”

Advocates are independent from other services and as such are able to focus on giving people a voice and empowering people in a unique way.

There is some statutory provision of advocacy (Independent Mental Health Advocates, Independent Mental Capacity Advocates and NHS Complaints Advocacy).  Statutory advocacy has the benefit of being protected by law (e.g. the Mental Health Act and the Mental Capacity Act) but these types of advocacy are only available in specific situations.  There is therefore a need for generic advocacy services that are able to work with a wider range of people on the issues with which they need support.

Dementia advocacy

The Dementia Advocacy Network (DAN) believes that every person with dementia should have access to a skilled and independent advocate who understands dementia and is equipped to advocate effectively.

People with dementia are among some of the most vulnerable members of our society.  With an illness that brings diminishing ability to cope independently, progressive changes in cognitive ability, fluctuating mental capacity and increasing difficulties in communication they are vulnerable to discrimination and abuse.  Increasing demand on services, austerity measures and reduced resources mean that sometimes the person with dementia has little involvement in decisions about their treatment and care, their rights disregarded, their voice not listened to or overpowered by others.

Advocates who work with people with dementia are able to ensure that their voice is heard and their rights protected.  Advocates can also work in a non-instructed capacity with people who are unable to tell the advocate what they want, which can be particularly valuable for some people with dementia.  DAN’s publication “Taking their side; fighting their corner” includes case studies that demonstrate the value of advocacy for sixteen different people with dementia.

Advocates can benefit other services by being able to spend time specifically focusing on finding out what the person with dementia wants and communicating this to service providers.  This means that service providers can have the assurance that their service is tailored to that particular service user, taking their individual views and preferences into account.

‘Mind the Gap’ – Advocacy provision in London

DAN has produced a report to promote the need for independent advocacy for people with dementia and highlight areas in London where there are gaps.  The findings of the report will be presented and discussed at DAN’s conference, ‘A Stronger Voice for People with Dementia’ which is being held in London on 18 September.  Anyone who is interested in attending can book a place here.

For further information please contact Jan Kendall, DAN Manager, or Heather Tyas, National Project Support, Dementia Advocacy Network (DAN): Tel: 020 8968 2614. Email: dan@advocacyplus.org.uk. Website: www.advocacyplus.org.uk/dan