For elderly queer people, heading into old age can mean heading back into the closet. But South Australia’s Catalyst re-engages our elders with community.
The Australian Human Rights Commission has recognised the struggles facing the LGBTQIA+ as they get older.
The Commission highlighted that older people are more likely to experience a history of stigma, isolation and sexual criminalisation during their lifetime. They also recognised a trend of returning to ‘the closest’ due to discrimination and misunderstanding in their new environment.
In Adelaide, The Catalyst Foundation is working to help reengage queer elders with the rainbow community.
The Catalyst Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation that helps provide community information for all South Australians. Connecting people with the services they need. Catalyst identified a lack of social groups and activities for older LGBTQIA+ people. So, the organisation launched a range of social groups for the over-50 rainbow community.
Project Officer Lucy Hackworth said that previously, LGBTQIA+ people were largely ignored by the aged care sector. However, things are beginning to shift.
“Broadly in the ageing sector, there’s been a real rise of awareness that older LGBTQIA+ exist and also that they have specific needs and also specific issues when it comes to loneliness and isolation.
“So I think as a response, there’s been a push to provide more services and also reflect inwards and look at how their practice is providing for all community members.”
For the Adelaide rainbow community over the age of 50, Catalyst organises a range of activities to promote social inclusion. From queer movie viewings to book clubs and social dinners. Lucy said that for some attendees the social outings are the only time in their week that they can be their authentic selves.
“For a lot of people, they’re not out in their retirement village or to their carers, so attending these activities is their only outlet to meet other people and also to engage in queer media.
“We have a monthly dinner and that’s always booked out, we have thirty to forty people who go every month.
“I have heard from people that it’s the only thing they do when they’re around other community members.”
Digital literacy gap
Another challenge facing queer elders is the digital literacy gap.
“There’s such a digital divide, and during COVID it became really apparent,” Lucy said.
“When those social activities stopped it really impacted people, and for many transferring online was just not a possibility.”
Lucy said that for many people who attend the activities, accessing queer media independently is not an option.
To tackle the problem, Catalyst has launched digital literacy sessions for the LGBTQIA+ community, with the hope that attendees will become more comfortable in the digital space.
“I hope it will give people the option to widen their possibilities for connecting with people online or accessing LGBT content,” Lucy said.
Catalyst’s range of social activities for the LGBTQIA+ 50+ community are inclusive and always welcome new attendees.
Please email or call (08) 81688776 for more information.
Catalyst also runs South Australia’s Rainbow Directory, listing all LGBTQIA+ services and social groups in the state.
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