Meet Opening Doors, the only national charity to specialise in supporting LGBTQ+ people over 50.
What started as a small project from Age UK Camden dedicated to helping gay men in Hampstead has now become a support network for marginalised LGBTQ+ people all around London.
Today, Opening Doors has expanded its offerings, providing befriending services for the elderly as well as support groups for LGBTQ+ people of colour, trans and nonbinary people, pansexual and bisexual people and those affected by dementia.
These services are vital for older members of the LGBTQ+ community who feel lonely or isolated. Opening Doors gives these people a way to connect and bond with others, whether through in-person activities — like going to the theatre or a museum — or virtual activities for those who may be housebound.
Befriending: A "life-line" for its members
Many people, especially in the LGBTQ+ community, struggle with increased feelings of loneliness and isolation as they get older. Opening Doors' befriending service can relieve this stress.
Befriending connects isolated LGBTQ+ people over 50 with a volunteer befriender for social contact every fortnight. A survey conducted by Opening Doors in 2020 found over a quarter of their members "hardly ever or never" have anyone to talk to, making this service even more vital.
Jonathan Buckerfield, Opening Doors' Head of Fundraising and Communications, said: "For many of our members wanting this support, it might be the only call that they have all week, and it means so much to them to be connected to their community. We want LGBTQ+ people over 50 in London know that they don’t have to be alone – we are here to support them."
Helping those affected by dementia
Opening Doors offers nearly 20 support and activity groups covering all parts of the rainbow, whether it be a group dedicated to friendly Sunday get togethers or one designed for trans and non-binary people.
What makes Opening Doors unique, however, is their two groups — Rainbow Memory Cafe and Rainbow Carers Group — dedicated to supporting LGBTQ+ people affected by dementia.
Buckerfield said: "When LGBTQ+ people are affected by dementia, it can impact them in different ways to the general population. For some people, reminiscing about memories from years ago can be comforting, but for our members who may have experienced abuse, discrimination and prejudice at this time, it can be upsetting and alarming. That is why our services are so important because we know these nuances and are able to support people in their individual journeys."
How you can support Opening Doors
The best way for members of the general public to support Opening Doors is by donating.
Buckerfield said: "Lots of people support charities that work with younger LGBTQ+ people; however, the older people we represent are often overlooked, despite the amazing things that this generation have achieved for us in LGBTQ+ rights. Any amount helps and your gift will make sure that older LGBTQ+ people are not alone."