MELBOURNE man Clynton Cooper-Alyn never felt like he was getting old.
Then a few years ago the 76-year-old who lives alone was diagnosed with dementia. "I thought I was going to be dead shortly, so that was that," he said.
But now, thanks to a volunteering peer support service for older lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or intersex (LGBTI) people, Clynton says he "feels like he is living again".
For the last two years he's been visited by 33-year-old Haydn Klemm as part of Switchboard Victoria's Out and About program and says he's "blessed". The pair often catch up, chat and "hang out" and Hayden says he loves listening to Clynton's stories.
The pair's story was recently featured on ABC Life
Out & About program manager Ada Castle said volunteers like Hayden visit a diverse group of older LGBTI people aged in cities and regional areas.
She said many volunteers and older participants have share lived experiences of homophobia, transphobia, stigma and/or discrimination.
"Older LGBTI individuals may have limited supportive family networks, significant fear of discrimination while accessing aged care and may not be able to access their community of identity," she said.
"Receiving regular visits from someone who 'gets it' and is themselves part of the LGBTI community can help to older LGBTI people feel accepted, less isolated and safe in their environment."
Craig is his 70s and lives in North-Central Victoria. When his long-term partner passed away four years ago Craig felt alone and isolated in his home town.
"I live in a rural town where I don't have any contact with LGBTI people and I was so lonely," he said.
He then found out about the Out & About program and said his contact with his volunteer visitor has been "fantastic". "It's as if we have known each other for many long years," he said.
Volunteers also visit aged care residents, like transgender woman Kate who lives in a facility in Melbourne's outer south-east.
"Coming into residential aged care is a really big adjustment for anybody and it takes time. I feel very isolated, I've got really no-one I can talk to at the same level," said Kate.
She said getting involved with Out & About "has been one of the best things that's happened in the last few years".
- For details, phone 0466 218 921, (03) 9663-2474 or visit switchboard.org.au/out-about
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