Excellence in aging for LGBTQ+

Elderly people at a meeting

More can be done to make sure LGBTQ+ adults age with dignity and their needs are met in the UK, say researchers from the University of Surrey. Together with Tonic Housing, the UK’s first LGBTQ+ affirmative retirement community, researchers from Surrey are launching The Life House Project – a participatory theatre-based initiative to explore the unique housing and care needs of the LGBTQ+ community in London. 

Many LGBTQ+ individuals face anxieties about housing and care as they age. The Life House Project aims to address these concerns by providing a platform for older adults to share their experiences and explore solutions collaboratively.  

Through seven workshops and one-on-one interviews, the project will create a space for participants to use creative expression through theatre, scriptwriting, and poetry. This approach will help participants tell their stories and highlight their specific needs and desired forms of support. 

Dr Georgia Bowers, Lecturer and Programme Leader of Applied and Contemporary Theatre BA (Hons) at the Guildford School of Acting and lead researcher, said:  

“We are particularly interested in how creative methods can support LGBTQ+ older adults to not only share their own experiences but also become advocates for themselves and the wider LGBTQ+ community. By communicating their concerns and aspirations through theatre and creative expression, we hope to ignite a conversation that leads to a more inclusive future for individuals in terms of housing and care.” 

Dr Richard Green, Surrey Future Fellow at the University of Surrey, said: 

“We are excited about the potential of theatre and creative expression to empower LGBTQ+ older adults to share their stories and advocate for better care and housing options. 

“This project goes beyond simply collecting data; it’s about creating a space for authentic expression and collaboration. By working together with participants to explore their needs through creative mediums, we aim to amplify their voices and create a lasting impact on how LGBTQ+ care is approached.” 

Professor Andrew King, Head of Sociology and Co-Director of Surrey’s Centre of Excellence on Ageing at the University of Surrey, said: 

“The Life House Project can make a significant contribution to creating more inclusive and supportive housing and care environments for LGBTQ+ people. It provides a new interdisciplinary and creative approach to highlight often hidden inequalities and issues and we hope it will influence policy changes and inspire service providers to create spaces where individuals can truly feel safe, valued, and supported as they age.” 

A celebratory event will also be held on Monday 24 June, to coincide with London Pride week. This event will showcase a project film documenting the journey of The Life House Project and its impact on participants. The event will also serve as an opportunity to connect the project’s findings with the broader LGBTQ+ community and discuss potential solutions for creating more inclusive and supportive housing and care environments. 

Bob Green OBE, Head of Operations at Tonic Housing said: 

“Tonic is very excited to take part in the University of Surrey’s Life House Research Project. The use of theatre and drama to examine the themes of housing and care in later life has piqued the interest of many residents and it has attracted other older LGBT people from outside Tonic. 

“We are particularly interested to learn about residents’ experience of living in the UK’s first LGBT+ Retirement Community as well as how housing and care services for older LGBT people can be improved. 

“Some older LGBT people have had terrible experiences in the past but having worked with University of Surrey researchers, we value their inclusive approach and supportive attitude, so we look forward to exploring challenging incidents safely and positively.”