The aim of the Silver Rainbows project was to develop a network for older LGBT+ people in Cheshire West and Chester to bring together those who feel isolated/lonely or excluded from existing provision.
Silver Rainbows was commissioned as part of Brightlife’s ‘Bright Ideas’ strand and was delivered by Body Positive, a registered charity working with LGBT+ people across Cheshire.
The project was initially awarded £20,000 to run for one year, with a further £20,000 subsequently awarded to extend it for another year.
While the data does show improvements for some participants in terms of a reduction in loneliness and isolation, higher levels of social contact and improved health and wellbeing, reluctance of many participants to complete the evaluation questionnaire means that the conclusions that can be drawn from this data are very limited.
However, anecdotal reports from participants indicated that their involvement with the network had a positive impact on their ability to connect with other older LGBT+ people, make new friends and prevent or reduce feelings of isolation.
The project raised the visibility of older LGBT+ people and their needs amongst local statutory and voluntary sector service providers. As a result, volunteers from the network have become members of consultation and steering groups, supporting the delivery of training on good practice with relation to older LGBT+ people.
A training and accreditation programme for the health and social care sector has been developed as part of the Silver Rainbows brand, aimed at improving the experiences of older LGBT+ people within institutions such as care homes, along with annual Take Pride in Ageing conferences for the sector.
As part of this work, a Pride event was held in a residential care setting. Members of the Silver Rainbows network attended and spent time with the residents celebrating LGBT+ history and culture. One resident reported that she had previously discouraged a gay relative from visiting her because she was worried about the reactions of other residents. However, having seen residents’ positive responses to the Pride event, she would now be inviting him to visit.
Delivering the Silver Rainbows project has enabled Body Positive to develop its skills, experience, and relationships with other organisations. Staff are now better equipped to work with older people, resulting in access to new funding streams and areas of income generation.
The project has also led to a deeper appreciation of the impact that historical treatment of LGBT+ people has had on this cohort. Following delivery of Silver Rainbows, Body Positive was awarded funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to deliver another project, From Prejudice to Pride, involving the collection of the oral histories of older LGBT+ people in the region and the creation of a new collection on LGBT+ history at the Cheshire Archive.
The Silver Rainbows network has been sustained as a virtual and physical entity beyond the end of the Brightlife funding period, with the Proud Marys choir and the Trans support group continuing to thrive, and regular activities continuing to be planned as part of both LGBT History Month and Chester Pride.