The largest single aged services provider in the country, UnitingCare Ageing has launched a new survey to understand the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or intersex (LGBTI) older people within the aged care system.
The online survey, which is confidential, was created to allow the provider to gain an insight into the way that older LGBTI people encounter aged care services and sector staff, so that it may later develop more inclusive services.
The initiative marks a proactive step from the Christian-based organisation to promote the rights of older people who identify as LGBTI.
The number of older LGBTI Australians is expected to rise in line with national trends to approximately 500,000 people by the year 2051.
UnitingCare Ageing’s LGBTI project officer, Kellie Shields, said creating inclusive aged care services is part and parcel with the organisation’s “proud and active commitment to social justice”.
Ms Shields said reaching out to LGBTI communities is vital to addressing the lack of awareness of the specific issues facing older LGBTI people.
“UnitingCare at its foundation has a mission to support communities that are disadvantaged, isolated and discriminated against,” said Ms Shields.
“Developing a strategy for the LGBTI communities is an evolution of the UnitingCare ethos, leading the industry in understanding and appreciating the expectations and current service shortfalls in aged care.”
The survey asks respondents to rate which services and programs are considered important to an older LGBTI individual’s quality of life.
It also queries whether they have had difficulties accessing health or aged care services because of sexual prejudice and whether the participant feels uncomfortable in disclosing sexual orientation to health or aged care staff.
The questionnaire also requires the participant to specify their age group, employment status (a retired option is included), geographical location and sexual orientation; and whether the participant cares for older people, advocates for LGBTI individuals and/or works as a health or community service officer.
The survey is the one of the organisation’s outreach, training and education, and partnership programs, run with LGBTI health organisations like ACON.
“This survey is an important part of the process; I encourage everyone who identifies as LGBTI to participate and help us develop services that cater to diverse communities.”
Ms Sheilds said UnitingCare Ageing wants to use the survey to create informed and innovative service standards for the provision of LGBTI aged care services, which will meet the future needs of our ageing population.
She said training for cultural awareness among staff is a key aspect, with UnitingCare Ageing now a member organisation of Pride in Diversity, promoting best practice for LGBTI employment.
These partnerships have been vital to beginning to break the barriers of concern by the LGBTI community in dealing with faith based organisations and accessing community and health care services.
Ms Shields is an industry representative on the Federal Government’s National LGBTI Aged Care Strategy Steering Committee, said UnitingCare Ageing has been an industry leader in innovation and inclusiveness.
Her work involves community consultations and forming partnerships with LGBTI health and community service organisations.