The Out and About Project
A case study from BAB's LGBT+ community development project for older people

About the project:

The Out and About Project was originally commissioned as one of BAB’s six community development programmes for older people in Bristol. The aim of the project was to reduce social isolation and loneliness among older LGBT+ people and develop a best practice approach.  

The project has been designed and developed with an older people’s Advisory Group to help shape it and ensure it meets the needs of the LGBT+ community. Feedback from this group led to a change in priorities from community development to engaging with service providers and local partners to help create an LGBT+ friendly environment for older people. This has meant assessing what companies and organisations working with older people already know about LGBT+ concerns and developing training.

Paul is a member of the Advisory Group who has encouraged this shift in perspectives and shared his experience with us.

 

A participant’s story:

Paul, from Bristol, identifies as a gay man. He had attended a range of wellbeing groups before finding out about the Freedom Walkers Group, a walking group for LGBT+ people. Paul experiences anxiety and felt that the walks might help him to manage his mental health as well as give him the opportunity to connect more with the gay community in Bristol.

At the Freedom Walkers, Paul met Sharifa, the BAB LGBT+ Community Development Officer, who supported the Freedom Walkers. Sharifa invited Paul to attend her Advisory Group and to help shape the direction and policies of the ‘Out and About’ project.

“I mainly came along and had opinions; I’ve got lots of opinions, particularly about the experience of being an older gay man.” Paul laughs.

At the Advisory Group, Paul felt listened to. “It’s nice to be in a gay group in the ‘hetero universe’ and have a space where you can be seen and have your struggles shared and recognised by others in the group. It always feels good to be listened to; sometimes in the gay community you can feel invisible as an older gay man.” Paul felt that he had had an impact on the BAB project and on the policies of the ‘Out and About’ project. Paul has been instrumental in starting the bisexual and gay men’s support group, funded by Oasis-Talks.

Paul would like to see more organisations having a dedicated LGBT+ officer working in the community. “It must be particularly terrifying for older LGBT+ people who feel they have to go back in the closet because there are no services aimed at them. I think it’s a form of discrimination.”

 

Learning:

The Out and About Project is based on a test and learn methodology and so has adapted its project based on the needs of older people in the LGBT+ community.

Initial learning concluded how important the role of a specific LGBT+ Officer is in hearing and meeting the needs of older people in the LGBT+ community. Through listening to and involving the LGBT+ community fully, The Out and About Project learnt that the community was concerned about attitudes to older LGBT+ people in local agencies and services. Many feared as Paul put it, having to “go back in the closet because there are no services aimed at them.”

The Out and About Project is now focusing on providing citywide training for professionals who work with older people.


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