Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

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We mustn’t make assumptions

I had a great day with project colleagues recently at Age UK Camden exploring issues around Equality and the Older Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Trans-gender population.  It was good to re-address the issues raised in the Equalities Act but most important to have a reminder about not making assumptions about people. It is so easy to ask someone if their ‘wife is coming to visit’ or ‘will your children be popping in?’


We looked at a timeline that told us that the first mention of  punishment of homosexuality was in 1290 and that in  the early 19th century 1 in every 8 executions was for sodomy or ‘unnatural misdemeanour’s’ Then in 1988 Section 28 was introduced which stated that a local authority shall not promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship” . It was not until 1992 that the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses.

When you think that a lot of the people we are supporting on the Cancer, Older People and Advocacy Project grew up in this environment, it reminds us how important it is to be sensitive to their wishes and to make sure that people are given the chance to talk about their identity and sexuality if they choose to.



At the end of the morning session we watched a lovely video showing the personal stories of several people who have used the services of Opening Doors London (ODL) who provide information and support services with and for older Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (OLGBT) people in the UK. Have a look on http://openingdoorslondon.org.uk/ – it says it all.

Naomi Karslake, Volunteer Coordinator, Oxfordshire Advocacy


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Working with Opening Doors London/AgeUK Camden

As part of our Flagship application  to BIG Lottery we’ve included plans to develop  our understanding of the advocacy support needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender older people with cancer.

We always considered that independent advocacy services were openly accessible to all older people. However, at OPAAL’s Members’ Day in September Stacey Halls from Opening Doors London and AgeUK Camden helped us see that maybe we are not as transparently welcoming to the older LGBT community as we thought. Simple things like including the rainbow logo on our service leaflets can make a world of difference, indicating that we’ve given a bit of thought about the needs of the community and are “out” about wanting to support them.


As we mentioned in last week’s blog post about our Flagship application, if successful, we hope to work in partnership with AgeUK Camden and Opening Doors London to develop peer advocacy models to ensure that as many older LGBT people as possible in the areas that the Cancer, Older People and Advocacy project is working are supported. We’ll also provide really worthwhile volunteering opportunities to older members of the community, training and supporting them to support their peers affected by cancer.

It really is an exciting time for older people’s cancer advocacy and with the knowledge and understanding we hope to gain from working with Opening Doors London and AgeUK Camden we’ll be able to ensure that we’re encouraging pro-active inclusion across all kinds of advocacy services.