REACHING OUT: OLGA members Pat Martyn and Rosalind Hawkins, and OLGA spokesman Ian Gray.
REACHING OUT: OLGA members Pat Martyn and Rosalind Hawkins, and OLGA spokesman Ian Gray. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Aged gays forced "back into the closet" to access care

GETTING older can be challenging.

However, research indicates gay, lesbian and transgender people experience more complex issues when aging such as barriers to gaining access to housing, healthcare, long-term care and other services.

One community group on the Northern Rivers is determined to turn things around by assisting people affected by these issues during this period of their lives.

OLGA, which stands for older lesbian and gay action, are a volunteer group who give support to "elders" in the gay and lesbian community experiencing social isolation or prejudice as they age by visiting elderly people in their homes or in residential care, as well as organising social activities for gay, transgender and lesbian older people in the community.

One member of the group, Rosalind Hawkins, said many people in the gay and lesbian community "go back into the closet" when they move into residential care.

"Some people who go into residential care don't feel comfortable to refer to past partners or even loved ones who have died which is quite a different experience to that of other elderly people," Ms Hawkins said.

OLGA spokesman Ian Gray said the group was working towards identifying those in the community who might benefit from their services.

"We've identified that elders in the gay and lesbian community need support which could include having someone to visit them or someone to help them talk with health care providers," Mr Gray said.

"We also can provide transport for people who might not be able to get around due to disability."

In another initiative for older Northern Rivers residents, Alzheimer's Australia is inviting people from the LGBTI community to "keep their brain challenged" on a tour of the Lismore Regional Gallery at 131 Molesworth St in Lismore on Friday. November 1.

The tour is between 1.30- 4pm, including social coffee and cake at the Dragonfly Cafe.

At a glance

OLGA meets monthly at different locations around the Northern Rivers. Those interested in joining the group can phone Ian Gray on 0407 891 913 or email olganrivers@gmail.com. They can also visit the Facebook page.



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