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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

10 - Ageing and old age

from Section III - LGBTQ experiences across the lifespan



• Age, ageing and ageism in LGBTQ communities

• Styles of ageing

• Issues in health and social care in old age

• Bereavement and death

Age, ageing and ageism in LGBTQ communities

Stereotypes of older LGBTQ people

Older LGBTQ people are a ‘hidden’ section of the LGBTQ population: ‘the most invisible of an invisible minority’ (Blando, 2001: 87). Popular images of LGBTQ people tend to be of younger people dancing the night away in a ‘gay club’ or marching in feather boas and hot pants in a Mardi Gras parade! Beyond middle age, it would seem that LGBTQ people simply disappear. British social scientist Stephen Pugh (2002: 160) writes that ‘The disappearance of older lesbians and gay men [and BTQ people] may seem somewhat analogous to a science fiction tale in which everybody over a given age suddenly vanishes as if to avoid tarnishing younger people.’

Gerontology (the study of ageing and old age) began to focus on older LGBTQ people, and particularly older gay men, in the 1970s. However, gerontology as a whole remains resolutely heterosexist and this is partly why, although research on old age and ageing within LGBTQ communities is increasing, we know comparatively little about older LGBTQ people. This chapter will be informed by work in psychology as well as work in gerontology, sociology and other related disciplines in order to provide as complete a picture as possible of old age and ageing within LGBTQ communities.

Further reading
Barker, J. C. (2003) Lesbian aging: an agenda for social research. In Herdt, G. and Vries, B. (eds.), Gay and lesbian aging: research and future directions (pp. 29–72). New York: Springer.
Clover, D. (2006) Overcoming barriers for older gay men in the use of health services: a qualitative study of growing older, sexuality and health. Health Education Journal, 65(1), 41–52.
Vries, B. and Blando, J. A. (2003) The study of gay and lesbian aging: lessons for social gerontology. In Herdt, G. and Vries, B. (eds.), Gay and lesbian aging: research and future directions (pp. 3–28). New York: Springer.
Heaphy, B. and Yip, A. K. T. (2003) Uneven possibilities: understanding non-heterosexual ageing and the implications of social change. Sociological Research Online, 8(4),
Walter, C. A. (2003) The loss of a life partner: narratives of the bereaved. New York: Columbia University Press.