4 - Relationships, families and intimacies


To orientate learners to the diversity of networks and relationships and to emphasise the importance of supporting the continuing relationships of LGBT+ older people in communities and engaging them in support and care.

Many older people will have kept their gender and sexual identities hidden and performed in traditional roles as heterosexual partners and parents to avoid rejection and difficult relationships with their families and networks. Some may have lived with great loss, pain and misunderstanding from their family networks as a result of coming out whereas others may wish to be more open having 'come out' and fought for their rights already.

Being open to these possibilities as a care professional and being able to create an atmosphere of trust in which a person can be open if they want to be, without creating pressure for someone to 'come out', is essential. This is a skilled balancing exercise and one that many care professionals struggle with. For example, when older people come into contact with care services, they are not immediately recognisable as someone who identifies as LGBT+ and there may not be opportunities to talk about their lifestyles or experiences. From the professional's perspective, this can result in their life stories, and in particular their love stories, not being known, understood or acknowledged in the way they should be.