Diversity In Aged CareHealthy Communities will celebrate the International Day of Older Persons with the launch of the “Diversity in Aged Care” project.

The Diversity In Aged Care project, funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aging follows the release of the Government’s National LGBTI Ageing & Aged Care Strategy in December 2012.

The grant has been used to employ two aged care health promotion officers: James Keightley in Cairns and Gai Lemon in Brisbane.

Mr Keightley has extensive experience in various government roles in the aged care sector, and continues to work as an aged care advocate for Queensland Aged and Disability Advocacy Inc. Ms Lemon has worked extensively in the LGBTI community and has experience as a trainer and consultant, including in her past role as a co-chair of the Gay and Lesbian Welfare Association.

Healthy Communities will also provide LGBTI awareness training and one-to-one policy advice and support to aged care services.

LGBTI ageing action groups will be formed in Cairns, Townsville, Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast, following the success of the Brisbane group.

A series of LGBTI senior’s exhibitions will be held in various locations to bring aged care service providers and LGBTI people together. Executive director John Mikelsons said that Healthy Communities was very excited to receive funding, as the organisation hoped to expand its work with the aged care sector around LGBTI issues. “This new funding will enable us to support mainstream aged care organisations in Queensland to be more inclusive of the needs of LGBTI seniors,” Mr Mikelsons said.

South-East Queensland will become the first area in the country to receive LGBTI community aged care packages, and the first to develop an LGBTI senior’s visiting scheme at Healthy Communities.

“We are aware of many aged care services wanting to be better equipped to meet the needs of LGBTI seniors and we look forward to working with them in the coming years.” said Mikelsons.

Mr Keightley added “Recent legislative changes mean that religious organisations delivering aged care services can no longer discriminate against LGBTI people. However, legislating change and making it real for service users it can be two different things.”

Ms Lemon acknowledged the importance of addressing the unique needs of LGBTI elders, stating “These community members have lived through a time when homosexuality was considered a psychiatric condition, have sometimes been impacted by inhumane treatment to ‘rectify’ this, and experienced legislation that actively discriminated against them. This impacts on how they see the world, and demonstrates how important it is that service providers deliver services in a way that is sensitive and meets their needs. I am really looking forward to working with aged care providers on this important project”