Imagined futures and communities: older lesbian and gay people’s narratives on health and aged care

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Hughes, M 2006, 'Imagined futures and communities: older lesbian and gay people’s narratives on health and aged care', paper presented to Diversity in ageing: 39th Australian Association of Gerontology Conference, Sydney, NSW, 22-24 November.


Background: Issues affecting the engagement of health and aged care providers with older lesbians and gays may include discrimination and heteronormativity, a lack of awareness of the complexity of sexual identity expression, and variations in community affiliation. This study examined older lesbians’ and gays’ experiences and expectations of health and aged care service delivery. Methods: The study was exploratory and comprised in-depth interviews with fourteen older lesbian and gay people in the Blue Mountains. It aimed to elicit narratives relating to sexual identity and its expression. Interview data were analysed according to the principles and techniques of narrative research. This included an analysis of the socio-linguistic properties of specific narratives, as well as a deeper socio-cultural analysis of the meaning expressed in these narratives. Results: Participants conveyed different types of narratives, including narratives on specific past events, habitual narratives and hypothetical narratives. In some cases these narrative types intersected in the expression of hopes and expectations for future care. Narratives related to the use of records and environmental cues to facilitate identity disclosure, as well as possible strategies to avoid discrimination and homophobia in aged care. Participants also conveyed narratives relating to their imagined and anticipated care in local communities, lesbian and gay communities, aged care communities and friendship networks. Conclusion: The findings highlight the value of acknowledging the diverse ways older lesbians and gays might wish to express their identities and the range of communities from which they might expect their future care to be provided.