New LGBTQ+ National Telefriending Service for older persons launches

LGBT Ireland has launched Irelands’ first National Telefriending Service for older LGBTQ+ people.

Three people standing beside a payphone. Woman on left is holding a mobile phone to the camera. man in the middle is holding a sign which reads LGBGTI+ Tele-Friending Service. Second man on right is holding a mobile phone to his cheek.
Image: LGBT Ireland

LGBT Ireland has launched Irelands’ first National Telefriending Service for older LGBTQ+ people, specifically designed for older LGBTQ+ people who are experiencing social isolation and loneliness.

The national service will offer a weekly telephone call to older LGBTQ+ people from friendly volunteers who are also members of the LGBTQ+ community and are specially trained and garda vetted.

The service will place particular emphasis on connecting people in rural parts of the country as there is a “greater need for this type of connection,” according to Paula Fagan, CEO of LGBT Ireland.

The service was conceived from LGBT Ireland’s own data where on average 14% of calls annually to the LGBT Helpline where from older LGBT people calling about isolation and loneliness.  Of these, 77% of the older people who contacted the LGBT Ireland Helpline lived in rural parts of Ireland, with rural isolation cited as a major concern and issue.

Findings in LGBT Irelands’ 2020 annual report found these numbers were further exasperated during Covid.

As many now older LGBTQ+ people grew up in a time when it was extremely difficult to be open about being Lesbian, Gay Bisexual or Transgender, many experienced significant discrimination, stigma and social exclusion and carry this on into later life, so the Telefriending service aims to improve overall well being and mental health by way of the contact and chats.

The service launched on International Day for Older Persons 2021 is for those aged 50+ who can sign up for the service on where the Telefriending coordinator will match an older person to a volunteer, providing continuity of service.

The telephone conversations will provide companionship and an opportunity to discuss issues affecting the caller and may provide information for seeking further supports available. LGBT Ireland wants to raise awareness about the service among Carers and Home Care providers, Public Heath and Community Nurses who maybe in contact with LGBTQ+ Older people and help them connect into the service; similarly next of kin or family members may help their older relatives sign up for the service.

Speaking at the launch of the National Telefriending Service, Tom Cavanagh, a member of the LGBTQ+ Community said “Gay people are a thinly spread community, but we all need community, we need friends and we need this befriending service.”

All information on the service can be found online at LGBT Ireland’s website. 

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