Imagining Ageing Futures: LGBTQ+ Multicultural People in Australia

Author: Jinwen Chen

  • Thesis download: available for open access on 16 Aug 2025.

Chen, Jinwen, 2024 Imagining Ageing Futures: LGBTQ+ Multicultural People in Australia, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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Queer geographical gerontology is a nascent field that examines the spatial needs, preferences, and experiences of older people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or other minoritised gender and sexual identities (LGBTQ+). Emerging alongside the burgeoning research on LGBTQ+ ageing, it challenges the cisgender and heteronormative bias in geographical gerontological research by foregrounding the experiences of older LGBTQ+ people. Despite these developments, geographical work on LGBTQ+ ageing has several gaps and opportunities. Given the recency of this field, an intersectional perspective discussing how race, ethnicity, and/or culture relates to age, gender, and sexual identity is missing. Related to this is the conceptualisation of ‘old age’ as a demographic category rather than a socio-cultural, spatio-temporal, and relational construct to be interrogated. While space and place (particularly ageing in place) have been at the forefront of geographical analyses on LGBTQ+ ageing, time, intergenerationality, and plurality in spaces/places of ageing have not. More crucially, as with the LGBTQ+ ageing literature, current research emphasises the illuminating the needs and preferences of older LGBTQ+ people, paying less attention to how heteronormative, racialised, and ageist norms may be queered and expanded.

My thesis intervenes at this juncture, contributing to queer geographical gerontology by augmenting its ‘queer’ focus. I draw on key interdisciplinary developments in and around queer studies—primarily queer gerontology and queer diaspora, but also the queer subjectless critique—which are anti-essentialist, post-structural, and intersectional in dismantling norms and discourses around ageing, gender, sexuality, and race. Deviating from the preoccupation with ageing needs and experiences, my thesis centres on ageing futures and imaginations. Using online photovoice and semi-structured interviews with 14 LGBTQ+ multicultural people aged 50 and above across Australia, I tease out their conceptions of (un)liveable and (un)desirable ageing futures. I ask how these conceptions reflect or disrupt normative notions of ageing. I critically read and analyse them using queer theories on time, kinship, and belonging(s) which map on to geographical concepts of time, age relationality, and space/place.

I demonstrate that LGBTQ+ multicultural people harbour both normative and non-normative imaginations of ageing. Following heteronormative and chrononormative scripts and having access to (hetero-)kinship resources enable some to envision ageing successfully and with agency. These routes are nonetheless unavailable to those who are single, poorer, and without (supportive) children. Relatedly, fearing how heteronormative, racist, and/or ageist norms may push them out of place and time, participants articulate alternative renderings of time, kinship, and place/belonging. These articulations queer normative notions of ageing, highlighting the possibilities of ageing in time, ageing across/between places, and ageing with plural kinship ties beyond the monogamous couple or nuclear family unit. Bringing these findings back into queer gerontological geography illuminates the value of a critical, intersectional, and relational approach to LGBTQ+ ageing. It calls for scholars to look beyond the singular to the plural, beyond the non-heterosexual to the non-heteronormative, exploring how ageing can be queered and expanded for those at its margins and intersections.

Keywords: queer geography, queer gerontology, LGBTQ ageing, ageing in place, queer diaspora, queer futurity, online photovoice

Subject: Ageing Studies thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2024
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Helen McLaren