Older gay population to receive dedicated help

Age Concern and the Alzheimer's Society have both created new roles dedicated to assisting gay and lesbian older people and their carers.

The Alzheimer's Society has appointed Lisa Cooper as development officer to promote services to its 25,000-member lesbian and gay network, which was officially launched this week.

She was previously development team leader at Salford Council for Voluntary Services, and will be working out of the Manchester Lesbian and Gay Foundation offices. The two-year position is being funded with £90,000 from Comic Relief.

Age Concern is looking for its first policy and resources development officer for older gay, lesbian and bisexual people, to boost their inclusion in society.

The post has been created in the wake of the charity's 'Opening Doors' conference in 2002, which highlighted specific problems that are faced by older homosexuals. Many face discrimination in areas such as pensions, tenancy rights and next-of-kin arrangements, the charity says.

Linda Shepherd, who is a member of Age Concern's older lesbian, gay and bisexual network, said the post was a huge step forward. "It will bring into the mainstream groups who have found their needs either ignored or misrepresented, and will broaden Age Concern's activities to further represent the interests of all older people," she said.

The Alzheimer's Society says there are up to 50,000 lesbian and gay carers of people with dementia. It has launched a newsletter dedicated to the issue, which will go out to its branches and other organisations in the care sector.

Clive Evers, director of information and education at the society, said: "A crucial issue is that mainstream services still regard gay and lesbian carers and their partners with a lot of stigma and hesitation. The issue of 'coming out' is still very problematic when people are seeking help and support. Time and time again they are asked about their relationships by the social and health services."

The society launched helplines for gay and lesbian people in 2001 and 2002 respectively, in response to a number of calls from people seeking support.

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