A charity supporting older LGBT Londoners feeling lonely or isolated is calling for regular donors to keep its social clubs and befriending service running.
Opening Doors London – a programme run by Age UK Camden – is the largest support service specifically for LGBT people over the age of 50. It organises up to 40 social events for its members each month, such as coffee and cake clubs, walks, trips to the theatre, and creative writing workshops.
These provide a safe and inclusive space for older LGBT people, many of whom have suffered discrimination throughout their lives. Some have experienced a family breakdown, or been the victim of homophobic attacks, leaving them socially isolated and withdrawing from the wider community.
Chris Mooney, 71, has been going to Opening Doors for almost a decade, ‘Most of these elderly gay folk live alone and some of them have actually lost their partners,’ he told the Evening Standard. ‘If you’re aged 50, 60, 70, 80, even 90, the chance of getting another partner is quite remote.
‘They would certainly remember the dark, dark days of homophobia. Coming to Opening Doors takes them out of themselves a bit, and gives them the opportunity to meet other people who are likewise.’
‘Our members are two and half times more likely to be alone as they get older, which is significant, and much less likely to be supported by their own families,’ Opening Doors ambassador Annie Southerst told the paper.
‘A big campaign we’re wanting to get into action at the moment is to encourage people to become regular donors – a fiver or tenner a month – if we can get enough, that makes an enormous difference to us because it’s money we can rely on.’
The charity currently supports around 1,200 people but hopes to reach many more of the 100,000 plus older LGBT people in the capital.
‘Open Doors keeps me not alone,’ said Jo, 70, a regular at Opening Door events. ‘What has happened to you is you’re leading your life again, that’s what you’re doing, you’re leading a full life again.’
Words: Sid Hayns-Worthington
Images: Opening Doors London