Navigating Personal Networks: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Older People's Networks of Support Towards the End of Life

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 14:57
Location: Hörsaal 32 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Kathryn ALMACK, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
This paper examines how sexual and gender orientation can impact on experiences of support and care towards the end of life for the oldest generations of LGBT people. The heterogeneous needs of ‘older people’ towards the end of life are often neglected within research. There is however a burgeoning body of work that explores broader questions about health and well-being for older LGBT people. This identifies institutional and historical barriers that mean these older generations may be reluctant to disclose central aspects of their identity. Attendant impacts include reluctance to access formal care services and reliance on single generational networks of support. Older LGBT people are likely to have managed their personal networks across their lives to minimize exposure to stigma and discrimination. This may change in old age, with increasing frailty, ill-health and towards the end of life when care needs may increase. We know little about these transitions in the lives of older LGBT people.

 The paper discusses findings from the qualitative strand (60 in-depth interviews) from a large two year mixed methods UK project investigating the end of life experiences and care needs of older LGBT people (aged 60 or over), funded by the Marie Curie Research Programme. Findings revealed a number of barriers and stressors impact on well-being and care experiences, related to respondents' LGBT identities. These included anticipatory and/or real fears and experiences of discrimination; hetero-normative assumptions and lack of recognition of relationships. Many expressed a preference to rely on personal networks rather than formal care services. Respondents' networks varied from those who were extremely isolated to others who had strong connections incorporating friends, families and kin. It is clear that older LGBT people's histories and pathways have profound influences on well-being and access to support towards and at the end of life.