ways to help combat loneliness

Elder Gays

With an estimated one-third of the world’s LGBTQ+ population over 50 and countless websites and services tailored towards a younger audience, older people often feel excluded and isolated. Are we doing enough to represent and help ageing community members in a more inclusive world?
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  Elder Community
Around the world, it is estimated that 9% of the total population are over the age of 65. With the average life expectancy for men being 74 years of age and for women 77, that means an estimated 18.1 million of the world’s LGBTQ+ population are near to or at retirement age. Now consider that individuals over the age of 50 make up a staggering 34% of the global population. These combined statistics mean that over one-third of the community are aged 50 years or older.

Many quality LGBTQ+ community-related resources are available today, including websites, influencers, or news items. Many will use images and illustrations often centred around young, typically physically fit and attractive individuals. Usually, if represented, older individuals are portrayed as either incredibly fit or highly attractive people. Many of these older individuals are generally featured in fetishes, with younger people preferring older, daddy or mummy relationships. However, it is often difficult to find an accurate representation of ordinary and every day more senior community members.

Representation is important for people to feel that they belong, and society accepts them, regardless of their age. If older community members cannot identify from as young as 50, imagine how it is for someone who is 65 or older. The lack of representation may have an adverse effect on elderly members of the community, making them feel less or unwanted. As a result, many may hide away or live more reclusive lifestyles.

Representation does not need to be around sex or even one of the many Instagram-styled scenes. It is more about reflecting and portraying the reality that these individuals exist. By showcasing older individuals, ultimately, the community will benefit. Older people add tremendous value, a wealth of experience, personalities and would be a great addition to any support networks. We create the supportive and caring families we need, rather than the ones we are born into, especially those conventional families that may not always accept how we live our lives.

Aside from representation, some senior members will likely also feel lonely and isolated, especially if they lose a life partner later on in their lives. In addition, given the changing perceptions over the years, there is also the reality that many older individuals may have been rejected by their families many years before. Finally, their circle of friends may have significantly reduced as friends age, move or pass away.

In recent years, members of the LGBTQ+ community have started families of their own by legally having or adopting children. For some, starting a family has meant that they will have a supportive family network later on in life. This option was not available to many older members of the community. Many older LGBTQ+ individuals grew up in a period where they experienced prejudice. They may not have been able to have been their true selves until a lot later on in their lives. Of course, not everyone wants a large circle of friends, family or even to be singled out; however, having the option to choose in itself is an advantage to all.
  How could you help?

If you know of someone older in your community, reach out. It can be as simple as asking them how they are doing and whether they need any help with shopping or other menial tasks. When you widen your circle of friends to include a range of age groups, you will quickly be amazed by how interesting and fun people can be. Many people will be fascinating to listen to, especially when talking about their life stories and experiences and providing counsel on situations you may face. Inviting older members to social events such as barbeques or drinks is another great way to help facilitate the introduction and integration of individuals from all generations. It may not always be straightforward; some people may have been alone for a long time. Some may even feel that they are imposing, initially declining any invitations.

Simply by keeping the lines of communication open and inviting them to any events. Constantly reassuring them that everyone is welcome, you will be surprised that they may come along and join in one of your activities over time. There will be, of course, some that do not want to participate. However, just greeting them and checking in on them on occasion might end up being a lifeline to them, though they may never realise it.

  Better Representation
Having older people featured in the mainstream and specialist press could also go a long way in helping them feel much more integrated within the community. Highlighting stories and especially contributions that many have made over the years to the community. It is also about age and the diversity and spectrum of individuals that form this amazing community. Integrating all generations, young and old, is a true reflection of reality. Something that shows that the LGBTQ+ community is more accepting and caring of all the individuals that form this diverse and global community.

We all benefit from getting to know and connect with people from all generations. Reaching out is not just about being a kind and caring citizen; you will get so much more from the encounters in the long run. Do not lose hope if you have a terrible experience when reaching out. Like within your friend group, some might be having a bad day while others might lack social skills, that does not mean you should give up. For older community members, you have to be open and welcoming to anyone that reaches out. We all must recognise and acknowledge that differences exist between the generations, but this should not be seen as negative. For a community that celebrates difference, we should be more adept at adjusting and integrating people better into our lives.

Ultimately if you reach out and are willing to accept offers of friendship, we will live in a better, more supportive community. Many years from now, you too may need a little help and support and your actions today could result in someone reaching out to you when you need it most. Though our bodies may age over time, we are still the same interesting and unique people we have always been, do not let our outer shells fool you.

ELDER COMMUNITY

Discover more about the elder community, an exceptional group of people from ages 20 to over 100. Learn about each group from an LGBTQIA+ perspective and the entire population by continent
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