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The significance of affinity groups and safe spaces for older lesbians and bisexual women: creating support networks and resisting heteronormativity in older age

Jill Wilkens (PhD Student, London South Bank University, London, UK)

Quality in Ageing and Older Adults

ISSN: 1471-7794

Article publication date: 14 March 2016

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the impact of belonging to a same-sexuality social group or network for older lesbians and bisexual women.

Design/methodology/approach

In total, 35 women were interviewed about a range of topics including coming out (or not) in the 1950s and 1960s, their feelings about ageing and their experiences of attending groups for lesbians and bisexual women, now and in the past.

Findings

The study found that, while the participants had different opinions of groups and their significance, the majority valued the opportunity to meet with other “like-minded” women and enjoyed a range of positive outcomes.

Practical implications

The nature of the space where such groups are located was significant to many as was the employment of paid leaders, not only to take up the administrative burden but to moderate and prevent cliques from forming.

Social implications

The research indicates that such groups have an important role to play in alleviating loneliness and promoting positive ageing.

Originality/value

This research makes an important contribution to the literature about lesbian, gay and bisexual ageing which is frequently focused on gay men. Their feelings about loneliness, the role of social space and groups are often different to those of lesbian and bisexual women such as my participants, particularly those who were at the cutting edge of second-wave feminism.

Keywords

Citation

Wilkens, J. (2016), "The significance of affinity groups and safe spaces for older lesbians and bisexual women: creating support networks and resisting heteronormativity in older age", Quality in Ageing and Older Adults, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 26-35. https://doi.org/10.1108/QAOA-08-2015-0040

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited