A charity that supports lonely LGBT Londoners over 50 is calling for help to fundraise its community cafes and befriending service.
The biggest charity of its kind in the UK, Opening Doors London helps older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people feel less isolated with social events and volunteers who visit them at home.
Running social events such as coffee and cake, card games and theatre trips, as well as a befriending service, the charity provides older LGBT men and women with a safe space they can socialise without judgement on their sexuality or gender.
Older LGBT people are “two and a half times more likely to be alone as they get older”, explains ambassador Annie Southerst, and this charity provides a lifeline to people who often have no one else to call on.
“They are much less likely to be supported by their families, and more likely to have suffered bereavements of their partners who they’ve been with for many years, leading very, very hidden lives.
“20 per cent of our members have reported that if they needed to call on anyone for help, there would be nobody there, and that’s a really worrying and sad statistic.”
Chris Mooney, 71, has been coming to Opening Doors London’s events for nine years and says it is “a marvellous idea”.
He told the Standard: “Most of these elderly gay folk live alone and some of them have actually lost their partners, and if you’re age 50, 60, 70, 80, even 90, the chance of getting another partner is quite remote.
“They would certainly remember the dark, dark days of homophobia. Coming to Opening Doors takes them out of themselves a bit, and gives them the opportunity to meet other people who are likewise. I just want gay folk to be happy.”
The charity currently helps 1200 older LGBT people in London but hopes to extend its support to the 100,000 living in the capital. One of its members, James Annett, is in his sixties and became a member of the charity after feeling isolated living alone.
“I’ve been coming to the coffee morning for about four or five years,” he told the Standard.
“It gives me something to do on a Friday morning, and generally being a member gives me a bit of a social life that I otherwise wouldn’t have.
“It’s important for me because I live on my own and if you’re not too careful, living on your own, you can withdraw. So coming here gives me an excuse to come out, and you see friends from one week to the next.”
The charity is calling for help in fundraising its cafes and vital befriending service that run in almost every borough across the capital, explains ambassador Annie Southerst: “We’re always looking for fundraising to be able to keep going and keep the organisation afloat.
“A big campaign we’re wanting to get into action at the moment is to encourage people to become regular donors – a fiver or tenner a month – if we can get enough, that makes an enormous difference to us because it’s money we can rely on.
“I just want to add: big love to all our members who are just the most fantastic elder people. They’ve had incredible lives – often with a lot of hiding away, prejudice and discrimination and now just want to just be themselves for the rest of their lives.”
To donate to Opening Doors London, head to their fundraising page.