5 - Life stories


To provide guidance to teachers who wish to use LGBT+ older people’s life stories as part of their teaching.

Life stories or narratives have been used extensively in health care teaching and offer teachers and instructors a way to help students understand the lived experiences of people who use social and health care services. According to 1000 Lives Plus, patient stories or narratives can support learning and education, inspire, change attitudes and mindsets and be used as part of research. In terms of learning and education, stories can improve care by creating dialogue, identifying needs and creating improvements. They can also help healthcare providers to see the person as equal to the treatment/care enabling a focus on the person and not just the outcomes (1000 Lives Plus, 2012). In addition they can help to inspire healthcare workers by reminding them about why they do what they do and they can also help to shift attitudes and to endorse good work while also bringing attention to flaws (1000 Lives Plus, 2012). LGBT+ older people have been described as a doubly invisible group and ensuring their voices are heard and that their stories are included as part of the ageing narrative is essential to not just raise awareness of their existence but to acknowledge their unique needs as health care recipients. While life stories are most widely told in person, this is not always possible, therefore other mediums can be used including, but not limited to videos, case studies, poetry, art, books, photography, pod casts etc. The aim of this unit is to provide some guidance about using life stories with students and provide some examples of how life stores can be used to help students develop and awareness of the life context of LGBT+ older people.


  • Life stories can be used to communicate a range of experiences to students, but teachers should be clear about how the life story fits with the aims of the module or unit of learning.
  • It is important to consider the life stories of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender individuals wherever possible.
  • Where an LGBT+ older person has been invited to address the students, they should be made aware of the module or unit of learning and how their talk fits with the overall aim of the module. Many LGBT+ older people will talk generally about their experience, if the teacher wishes for a particular emphasis (e.g. discrimination within healthcare environments) then the LGBT+ older person should be made aware of this. The focus of the session may also dictate who is asked to come and talk to the students as well and this needs to be considered in advance.
  • How the LGBT+ older person will get to the venue and any particular needs they have once they are there need to be considered with the older person.
  • If an LGBT+ older person is visiting the class to speak to students then the teacher should remain in the class to maintain the educational environment and to support the older person where necessary.
  • Use of teaching aids such as power point, computers, lap tops etc need to worked out in advance to ensure the smooth running of the class.
  • Ground rules need to be decided at the beginning of the class and negotiated with the LGBT+ older person. Specifics such as the length of the class, question times etc also need to be decided on.
  • Allow time for the students to debrief following the session and ensure that the students have some time to reflect on their learning. This may require the preparation of some reflective questions based on the session.
  • Teachers should think about the process orientated outcomes, with an emphasis on what the students think and feel; what do the students need to do now, how can they learn more?
  • Strategies to manage strong emotions within the classroom need to be considered especially where narratives may be sad, expose bad practices or conflict with personal values.
  • Where a LGBT+ older person has spoken with the students, it is important to follow up with this person to assess their satisfaction with the session and if there was anything that can be done in future to improve it. In addition the teacher should thank the older person and to assess their need for support.
  • There may be no budget to provide payment to speakers and this should be clarified with the LGBT+ older person, however it is important that they are not put out of pocket and efforts should be made to cover travel/parking or lunch costs.