David Beard says there’s no discrimination at the nursing home where he is a resident.

“Everyone’s accepted” and are made to feel they belong at Uniting The Marion, in the Sydney suburb of Leichhardt, Mr Beard told HelloCare.

Mr Beard, who is 93, speaks with humour and animation. “Everyone thinks I’m pommy, but I’m not,” he said. “I’m a true Aussie. I was born in New South Wales in 1923.”

Mr Beard, who describes himself as “the G part of the LGBTI”, said The Marion is a real home to him.

“I’ve been very comfortable here. People don’t discriminate against us,” he said. “Everyone’s accepted.”

Staff at The Marion come from all over the world, but that is no barrier to them all getting along “very, very well”. 

Everyone calls each other by their first names, providing each resident with reassurance of their identity. “It makes me feel that I belong,” Mr Beard explained.

The staff are kind too, Mr Beard said, with the “caring” manager setting the tone. “If anybody is a little bit upset, they just go to the manager and she’s very sympathetic. If they’re uncomfortable in a situation they try to make it right.”

Mr Beard is also appreciative of the home’s decoration. “They really make it like a home, a pretty classy home. We have lovely pictures on the walls. We have various decorations. It’s a very, very nice place.” 

“It makes you feel safe. It’s homely,” he said. 

Social distancing remains in place

The home is still in lockdown at present, with residents unable to leave. But visitors are still permitted, so long as they practice social distancing.

“They’re very careful with people coming and going,” Mr Beard said, noting that it’s “distressing” to see what has been occurring with the dramatic rise in cases in Melbourne.

The good things in life

Mr Beard says his favourite thing to do every day – “apart from the meals which are pretty good” – is to watch the sun set. “I sit out at about 4 o’clock these days… As the seasons pass, it’s either earlier or later.”

He also finds ways to entertain himself. “I have a room that overlooks the light rail, and I can predict which side the train is coming. I play a little game with myself.”

Mr Beard also spends a lot of time reading and writing, and he has a coffee every morning at the in-house cafe, which he says is “very good”. The staff running the cafe are the “pillars of the place. They are marvellous people. Most obliging,” Mr Beard explained. 

“They have espresso, or cappuccino, or all that kind of thing. Or you can have some goodies, like Portuguese tarts, or there’s a doughnut they have with jam in the centre.”

“These are the good things in life.”

LGBTI inclusion part of the philosophy

Uniting has conducted research within Sydney’s LGBTI community. In total, 130 people completed a survey. 

The results showed that 49 per cent of respondents don’t believe aged care services meet the needs of the LGBTI community. 

The survey found that 83 per cent of respondents believed in the importance of inclusive language and behaviour, treating disclosures with sensitivity, and support for partners.

Having a service that is inclusive is more important (76 per cent) than the quality of service (71 per cent) or cost of service (50 per cent), the survey found.

Uniting NSW.ACT chief executive, Tracey Burton, said, “The LGBTI community can be worried about accessing aged care services, and we have to try extra hard to overcome those fears and tailor care to unique and varied needs.”

“I am proud that Uniting is leading in LGBTI inclusion. We’ve earned a Rainbow Tick, and we’re consistently recognised as one of Australia’s top LGBTI employers by the Australian Workplace Equity Index by Pride in Diversity.”

The good you do comes back to you

Mr Beard explained that he doesn’t have family, and a lot of his friends have passed on. “That’s life,” he said. “But I have a lot of good visitors and a lot of support from friends.”

“I’ve often said the good that you do, comes back to you, and it doesn’t cost you very much. That’s my philosophy.”

Image: David Beard at Uniting The Marion. (Supplied.)

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