LGBT Age is a befriending and social events service for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people aged 50 and over, living in the Lothians. The service aims to reduce social isolation, improve self-esteem, and build links in the LGBT community. It also offers advocacy and information services.

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How it started

Before LGBT Age, no organisation in the Lothians offered a service across the whole LGBT spectrum to this age group. The gap in services was identified by the director of the LGBT Centre who has a background in older people’s services.


LGBT Centre for Health and Wellbeing (parent organisation)
Befriending Networks
LGBT Age Advisory Panel - membership included:

  • City of Edinburgh Council
  • West Lothian Council
  • NHS Health Scotland
  • Age Scotland
  • Alzheimer Scotland
  • Pilmeny Development Project
  • Waverley Care


The centre recruits and trains volunteers, and matches them to people who request a befriender. The clients decide how they will spend time with their volunteer. LGBT Age also uses publicity tools to raise awareness of services among professionals and older LGBT people.

The organisation also works to raise awareness of the issues faced by older LGBT people, including some of barriers that can limit their access to mainstream services.

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To date, 21 older LGBT people have met with a befriender, including two in residential care. LGBT Age’s clients range from 50 to 89 years old, and most have reported positive changes as a result of their involvement with the Centre.

‘The whole experience of being befriended has helped me to come to terms with the loss of my partner,’ says one client.

An additional 13 older LGBT people have attended social events with support from LGBT age.

Feedback about the volunteering experience has also been encouraging. Many of the volunteers are themselves over 50 and from the LGBT community.

One volunteer says, ‘I hope that through sharing my own life experiences I am able to give others hope and encouragement.’


Review meetings are held every quarter with clients and volunteers of the befriending service.

The Rosenberg self-esteem scale (RSES) and the Warwick Edinburgh mental wellbeing scale (WEMWBS) are used with clients to assess their needs. The indicators inform the process of matching clients with volunteers, and are also part of the quarterly review meetings.

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Lessons learned

It has been difficult to encourage referrals from mainstream organisations; 80 per cent of clients have been referred by LGBT key workers.

Many of LGBT Age’s clients lack the confidence to attend a group event. Social events are still a valuable support option, but they can be resource intensive in relation to the numbers of clients that benefit.

Befriending has been successful, because it offers personalised support to each client.

What's next for the project?

In the future, the Centre hopes to work with more people living in residential care, and to generate more referrals.

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Garry McGregor
LGBT Age Coordinator
LGBT Centre for Health and Wellbeing

Tel: 0131 523 1107


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