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July 26, 2023

Pride – an age friendly space?

Profile image for Jessica Duffy

Good Practice Mentor

As Pride month has drawn to a close, we think about Leeds Pride on 6 August (presumably due to an awkward Yorkshire temperament). So it’s time for a Good Practice Mentor blog to share learning from the work of our LGBTQ+ delivery partner during the Ageing Better programme.

I have been listening to colleagues extolling the wonders (and identifying dangers) of Chat GPT and thought I’d have a look, see what it might do for me. People keep saying it’ll put me out of work as a blog writer. I’m really not sure it’s going to do that just yet! I was a bit stuck on where to start this blog, which reflects on the additional social isolation which often leads to more loneliness for older members of the LGBT community. So I asked Chat GPT for information about older people’s engagement with Pride. Three times! The first two didn’t inspire me, but the third was good in parts.

It started here:

Pride parades have long been a symbol of unity, love, and acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community. From the dazzling rainbow colours to the vibrant energy that permeates the streets, these events have always been a celebration of diversity and progress. However, beyond the young faces that often dominate these gatherings, there lies a hidden but equally important segment of the LGBTQ+ community – the older generation.
(Sycophantic and stereotyped, I fear)

In this blog, we will explore the remarkable stories of older LGBTQ+ individuals and their invaluable contributions to the community, with a special focus on their experiences and participation in the Leeds Pride festival.
(You could say this is celebratory, but it just felt even more sycophantic.)

What it (Chat GPT) then did was nothing of the sort, because it has no idea what actually happened in Leeds, or what stories older people shared with us! But we do know.  The model did however help me think about what might be helpful for you to know, so I have been able to use some of the headings whilst stripping out some of the rather unctuous language and inserting references to real experience.

What Sage (a co-produced LGBTQ+ project; a partnership between Age UK Leeds and Yorkshire Mesmac) identified, was that although you might hope Leeds Pride would provide a platform for people of all ages to come together, in practice such a large event was not age friendly. So In 2016 Sage and the Time to Shine team worked together to increase the participation of older people at Leeds Pride.

They did this by:

  • promoting positive attitudes towards older people
  • providing accessible space for older people
  • collaborating with others to improve the age friendliness of Leeds Pride.

The Time To Shine team promoted age friendly awareness throughout the festival by taking part in the parade and using a stall in the Call Lane marketplace to talk to Pride participants. The team used the lure of a free, temporary tattoo to spread the word about the social isolation many older LGBTQ+ people face and to gather ideas about how to make Leeds Pride more inclusive.

Simultaneously, the Sage worker and participants negotiated an age-friendly, accessible and intergenerational space within the festival area. This followed on from a couple of years when they used the AGE UK Leeds Arch Café as an age friendly space. The café had advantages in that it was away from the main event, but for many LGBTQ+ older people that was also its disadvantage. They also piloted a support option, ‘Pride Buddies’ – volunteers who could assist individual older people who face more barriers to access the event. They worked with allies in the disability community who also face barriers to attending the event.

Despite some logistical hiccups, the response was excellent, with more than 80 people using the space.

Beautiful…spacious…love the art work…love the free tea…great to have a sit down but still feel part of the action! Thrilled it’s here!

Great – I can’t survive for very long on the street! This is the same space but still feel part of it all. Keep up the good work and thank you.

Love it! It’s so important to have a chilled out space at an event that’s so typically boisterous/busy/loud and therefore poses problems for people and might prevent them from engaging. I also really appreciate the intergenerational space.

Of course it wasn’t perfect, a lack of lead in time made promoting the Buddies service difficult. There were lots of things they would have done differently if they had done it again but the decision to have an age friendly social spaceat the heart of the event, not on the periphery, was key. As well as enabling older people to take part there was also a strong desire to remind people that it was the actions of the older generation which meant Pride marches were happening now.

Chat GPT was right about this: “…let’s briefly reflect on the historical struggles faced by the LGBTQ+ community. From the Stonewall Riots in 1969 to the ongoing fight for equal rights, the journey towards acceptance and equality has been a long and arduous one. The older LGBTQ+ generation has borne witness to these milestones, paving the way for the progress we celebrate today.”

Where it didn’t follow through was with the reflection that the youth-focussed nature of much LGBTQ+ social life meant that many older LGBTQ+ activists felt excluded by ageism (external, or internalised), or changing life circumstances, from remaining engaged, and often lost a social life where they were ’out’.

If you’d like to find out more about what the Sage project learned about how allies can help them to reach isolated LGBTQ+ people not yet known to the community, read the toolkit Making LGBT+ older people feel comfortable in your groups…

For more about older people taking part in Pride have a look at Opening Doors website or facebook pag. They take part in the parade, marching and with an open top bus.

If you want to join Leeds Pride this year, in company with other older people, you are welcome to join Out Together (a welcoming and inclusive community, supporting older LGBTQ+ people across Yorkshire) either walking in the parade, or beforehand for refreshments. you need Please let them know if you are coming –

For access to some great photographs to help you make older members of the LGBTQ+ community visible in your setting, search the Centre for Ageing Better’s Age-positive image library. Check out their blog pages too.  I found Jen’s story particularly compelling.

Keep an eye on my blogs to find out more about the learning being shared by the Good Practice Mentors. Next up will be the launch of our warm/winter space training, and maybe a trip to the seaside to find out more about what Ageing Better in Torbay did so well.

And as for my experiment with Chat GPT…

  • It gave me something to argue with which helped me with this topic as I was feeling a bit stuck
  • It clearly demonstrated it’s ignorance when it came to sharing actual learning from real people in a real situation
  • It has provided me with some good topic headings for some work around intersectionality – it did that when I asked it a different question.

As I said, good in parts. A tool, just like my handy laptop or Google’s search function. I’ll no doubt learn to use it.

Jessica Duffy
Good Practice Mentor