March 5, 2015

“I am not anywhere near as out as I used to be”

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SAGE Story is our national digital storytelling program for LGBT older adults that focuses on storytelling as a way to diversify the public narratives on aging, long-term care and LGBT rights. Through the generous support of the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, SAGE Story programs were established at SAGE sites in North Carolina and Pennsylvania to build their capacities as LGBT aging advocates and to collect stories on the ways in which discrimination has affected LGBT older people. To highlight this exciting initiative, we will be featuring a special SAGE Story on this blog once a week for the next three weeks. In addition, be sure to watch all of the amazing stories that our LGBT pioneers share with us on our specific page dealing with discrimination.

This week, we are highlighting Jeanne's Story. Jeanne comes to us from SAGE Wilmington of the Cape Fear Coast. She talks about how different it is living in North Carolina compared to her former home in Connecticut. As she states, "I have learned to be very circumspect about my personal life at work. I just don't talk about it." Watch her story below or on our SAGE Story site.

February 26, 2015

"I Began to Realize the Possible Consequences of Being Outed"

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SAGE Story is our national digital storytelling program for LGBT older adults that focuses on storytelling as a way to diversify the public narratives on aging, long-term care and LGBT rights. Through the generous support of the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, SAGE Story programs were established at SAGE sites in North Carolina and Pennsylvania to build their capacities as LGBT aging advocates and to collect stories on the ways in which discrimination has affected LGBT older people. To highlight this exciting initiative, we will be featuring a special SAGE Story on this blog once a week for the next three weeks. In addition, be sure to watch all of the amazing stories that our LGBT pioneers share with us on our specific page dealing with discrimination.

This week, we are highlighting Dave's Story. Dave comes to us from the Western Pennsylvania SAGE at the Persad Center. He had a career in education where he feared that being outed could jeopardize his job. The acceptance and support of friends, family and his church gave him comfort. Watch his story below or on our SAGE Story site.

 

February 24, 2015

Sounds of Conversation: Bringing Together Our LGBT Older Adults & Youth

In honor of Black History Month, SAGE presents "Sounds of Conversation," a video featuring voices of SAGE Harlem Center participants and youth from community partners, The Ali Forney Center and the Center Youth. These groups all took part in an Intergenerational Storytelling Project sponsored by a grant Keith Haring Foundation.

"Sounds of Conversation," allowed SAGE to bring LGBT older adults and youth together for an artist workshop that allowed each of the participant an opportunity to exchange personal narratives and create a theatrical piece for their respective communities.  The workshops were conducted over a series of Saturdays in the summer of 2014 at the SAGE Center Harlem location. The theatrical piece was performed on September 11th at the Producers Club, which is located within the famed theater district of New York City.  This video highlights the process and the performance of "Sounds of Conversation." To view another video of this workshop, visit our YouTube channel.

February 20, 2015

LBT Cancer Support Group and Wellness Workshops

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LCI coordinator, Cristina Moldow, with Marjorie Fein, facilitator of the 1st wellness workshop.

Lesbians, bisexual women, and transgender people (LBT) face unique challenges after receiving a cancer diagnosis. Studies have shown that lower rates of health insurance, fear of discrimination, social isolation, and negative experiences with healthcare providers contribute to an increased risk for cancer among LBT community members. These same risk factors can then negatively impact treatment, recovery, and overall health after a cancer diagnosis. Research has also shown that social support, whether informally through friends and family or formally through group and individual therapy, can have real benefits for those living with a cancer diagnosis. Social support may reduce anxiety, stress, fatigue, depression, and the experience of pain. Support can also improve cancer patient’s follow-through with cancer treatment.

The Center’s Lesbian Cancer Initiative, SAGE, and CancerCare have teamed up to offer an 8-week cycle of free, professionally facilitated support groups and wellness workshops for LBT community members who have, or had, a cancer diagnosis. Whether it’s navigating the medical system or cancer’s effect on sexuality, self-image, and relationships, these groups offer a safe space for participants to get the support they need and share their stories.

The support group and wellness workshops are being held at the newly renovated Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Community Center at 208 West 13th Street. For the first time, a split format is being used. The first hour, 4:30pm-5:30pm, provides psychosocial support and participants are encouraged to attend the full cycle. The second hour, 5:30pm-6:30pm, provides wellness and educational workshops that are facilitated by a new presenter each week and participants are able to come on an as-desired basis. This format allows those who may not be able to make a weekly commitment to still benefit from our services and aids in customizing the wellness workshops to participants’ personal experience of cancer:

Wednesdays, February 4 – March 25

LBT Cancer Support Group 4:30pm-5:30pm

LBT Weekly Wellness Workshop 5:30pm-6:30pm

             February 11: Empowering Cancer Clients with Energy Medicine, with Marjorie Fein

             February 18: Legal Education and Planning, with Erica Gomez, Esq. of The Family Center

             February 25: Contemplative Practice for Cancer Care, with Charles Paccione

             March 4: TBD

             March 11: Gentle Yoga, with Siavonh Lenaburg

             March 18: I Can Breath – Writing for Healing, with Phyllis Stern

             March 25: Cooking for Fun and Healing, with Cook For Your Life

Wellness workshops’ topics and facilitators have been specially selected with the needs of LBT community members in mind. By participating in the support group and/or wellness workshops, LBT community members who are living with a cancer diagnosis will benefit from engaging with a group of people who share similar concerns and experiences. Furthermore, they will be able to engage with a variety of professionals who are culturally competent, attuned to LBT specific health concerns, and willing to engage in conversations with participants that may not happen elsewhere.

If interested in learning more about the support group and wellness workshops, please call 646.556.9294 or visit www.gaycenter.org/lci. Participation is free, but an intake is required. Weekly calendar updates are also available at www.facebook.com/lcithecenter.

 This post was written by Jhia Jackson, Lesbian Cancer Initiative Community Outreach Peer Intern.

February 19, 2015

SAGE Story: Talking About Discrimination

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SAGE Story is our national digital storytelling program for LGBT older adults that focuses on storytelling as a way to diversify the public narratives on aging, long-term care and LGBT rights. Through the generous support of the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, SAGE Story programs were established at SAGE sites in North Carolina and Pennsylvania to build their capacities as LGBT aging advocates and to collect stories on the ways in which discrimination has affected LGBT older people. To highlight this exciting initiative, we will be featuring a special SAGE Story on this blog once a week for the next four weeks. In addition, be sure to watch all of the amazing stories that our LGBT pioneers share with us on our specific page dealing with discrimination.

This week, we are putting the spotlight on Chrissie, a 64-year old lesbian, who worked for nearly 35 for a global accounting firm. It was only in the final 6 years at her job that she found a more welcoming environment after workplace policies and support systems were improved. Chrissie comes to us from the Western Pennsylvania SAGE at Persad Center.

February 18, 2015

Taking our Housing Initiative to The White House

As the number of Americans age 65 and older surges over the next few decades, the number of LGBT older adults is estimated to double to 3 million by 2030. By this year – 2015 – one in two individuals who are HIV positive in this country will be over age 50.  Many struggle to find welcoming and affordable housing. 

On Tuesday, February 10, 2015, the White House, SAGE, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) hosted the National LGBT Elder Housing Summit.

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(L-R) Kathy Greenlee, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Aging, Michael Adams, Executive Director, SAGE and Nora Super, Executive Director of the White House Conference on Aging

We looked at the National LGBT Elder Housing Summit as a unique opportunity for the White House to bring together the LGBT community and the aging network to discuss the challenges communities across the country have faced in providing affordable, welcoming, and supportive housing to LGBT older adults and older adults with HIV.  The summit also provided an opportunity to hear from panelists from Washington and across the nation to see how they have successfully begun to meet those challenges.  And together, with an eye towards the future, we explored how federal housing policy and those at the state and local level can shape how we address these challenges in the years to come.

The day included a number of panels, with participation by experts from across the country, including panels entitled:

  • Overview of the Housing Needs of LGBT Elders and the Importance of Training Providers
  • Building Housing - LGBT Older Adult Community Housing
  • Educating Consumers on the Legal Landscape Regarding Housing Rights for LGBT Older Adults. How to Find—and Advocate for—LGBT-Friendly Housing in all its Forms
  • Expanding Services - Best Practices in Services and Programs that Support LGBT Older People with their Housing Challenges
  • Changing Policy – Creating Housing, Financial Security, and an Inclusive Safety Net

We had the pleasure of hearing Jennifer Ho, Senior Advisor on Housing and Services, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, deliver a keynote address on HUD’s interest in providing welcoming and affordable housing.

And we had the opportunity to host a White House Conference on Aging Listening Session, conducted by Kathy Greenlee, Administrator of the Administration for Community Living and Assistant Secretary for Aging, and Nora Super, Executive Director, White House Conference on Aging.  LGBT older adults and advocates shared their vision of a successful White House Conference on Aging directly with Administrator Greenlee and Executive Director Super.

In sum, the day provided a unique opportunity for advocates to share their thoughts with policy makers, and for policy makers to share their latest thoughts with individuals both personally and professionally invested in improving the housing security of LGBT older adults.

February 17, 2015

SAGE's Statement on the OAA Reauthorization

While SAGE is deeply disappointed that amendments to make the Older Americans Act (OAA) LGBT-inclusive are not advancing in the new session of Congress, we nonetheless support the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee’s decision to move forward on reauthorization of the Act. 

The committee’s vote demonstrates bipartisan support for this critical law, which contributes in important ways to the ability of Americans to age in their communities with the services and supports that they need.  We applaud members of Congress – including Senator Bennet, Senator Baldwin, Senator Sanders, and Representative Bonamici – who have championed much-needed amendments to the Act that would have designated LGBT older adults as a population of greatest social need and required more data collection and accountability to ensure that the OAA’s critical services and supports are LGBT-inclusive. 

While we are disappointed the bill that is currently advancing will not include these important amendments, SAGE recognizes that continued delays in reauthorization of the Older Americans Act will hurt older people throughout the country without increasing the chances for LGBT inclusion.   SAGE will continue to work energetically to draw attention to the unique needs of LGBT older adults and advocate aggressively that all relevant federal laws and programs address these needs.

For more information on SAGE's work on the OAA, click here.

February 10, 2015

A Quick Chat With SAGE Participant Sheila Slaughter

Our monthly “Quick Chats” with SAGE participants offer a first-person perspective on our community.  This month, we spoke with Sheila Slaughter, a 51-year-old bisexual New Jersey resident and participant in our SAGEWorks employment program. Because workforce discrimination can begin as early as the 40’s, SAGEWorks serves participants who are aged 45 and up. Sheila is a recent graduate of our two-week SAGEWorks Boot Camp program, an intensive training course that provides skills needed for job placement. She spoke with us about her personal philosophies, creative projects, and what SAGEWorks has meant to her. 

Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, Sheila! How did you first become aware of SAGE?

I found out about SAGE as part of my job search process. 

And what kind of work are you looking for?

My career has been predominantly in the nonprofit sector. I’m an office manager and have worked with runaway homeless youth, substance abuse prevention, and other kinds of organizations. I enjoy diverse work experiences and I think support work really lends itself to a lot of different environments. 

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Sheila Slaughter at the SAGE Center Midtown

 

How long have you been in that field?

All my life! It kind of found me. I was a runaway homeless youth and the Educational Alliance's Youth Board Program had an 18-month residence for young women. The Director took me under her wing and got me my first office job. That was in 1981. 

What else do you do? Any hobbies or creative pursuits?

I’m a blogger! I blog at bohemianwomanrising.com 

I love the title!

Thank you! If you look up “bohemian”, it means people who challenge spurious social constructs. We ask “Why do we dress girls in pink and boys in blue?” for example. My blog celebrates women’s intellectual history, health and wellness, and spirituality / spiritual sovereignty (as opposed to religion). 

So when you found SAGEWorks, you were on a job hunt…

I still am! LOL! 

And what’s your dream job?

Working with elderly people or youth—I need to be around people. I think both elderly people and youth are marginalized. If you’re not working our society doesn’t see value in you, because you’re not making money and contributing to the economic infrastructure. 

So you are pursuing work that addresses that.

Yes, work that helps others feel empowered. My ideal job would in some way bring the two groups together. There’s much we could learn from each other. If that were to happen I think quality of life would improve, and hopefully preconceived biases diminished. 

Do you have a guiding philosophy about work?

Just keep moving forward—it doesn’t matter if it’s a baby step or a giant leap—just keep moving in the right direction. Mostly, we tend to identify ourselves through our work, but it shouldn’t be the only thing that defines us. 

I agree! So, what was the most important thing you took away from the SAGEWorks Boot Camp?

Camraderie. It was encouraging to be around other 40-plusers. When you’re in our age group and looking for a job, it can be isolating. So the support group and connection to a cohort was important. The facilitator, Howard Leifman was highly knowledgeable. He imparted great information. Michele and Zoraida [SAGEWorks Staff members] were awesome too! The program was a welcome relief from the angst of the job search. 

Anything else you want to add?

I’d like to thank the SAGEWorks team yet again! 40-plusers entering the job market can encounter culture shock—so much has changed. SAGEWorks helps to ease the transition.  

-- Posted by Kira Garcia 

February 6, 2015

The Official Launch of Our National Housing Initiative

Our new national LGBT older adult housing initiative is up and running! On February third we welcomed housing leaders from across the country for a panel discussion launching a five-part strategy to alleviate the housing crisis impacting LGBT older people throughout the U.S. An album of images from the event is online here

Speakers included marriage equality icon and former SAGE board member Edie Windsor, who recalled working on housing issues as early as the 1980's, as well as Jennifer Ho, Senior Advisor for Housing and Services at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Ho affirmed HUD’s support for the effort,  stating that “the LGBT community's needs must be front and center” as HUD expands senior housing across the country.

The panel also included Cheryl Gladstone of Enterprise Community Partners; Melissa Rothstein of the Equal Rights Center; David Cleghorn of HELP USA;  Kathleen Sullivan of the Los Angeles LGBT Center and Sherrill Wayland of SAGE Metro St. Louis. 

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Six panelists addressed the crowd.

 

The panel's geographic diversity mirrored the national scope of the initiative, which offers five key strategies:

  • Building LGBT elder housing and sharing SAGE’s expertise from such projects
  • Training existing housing facilities to provide housing in an LGBT-welcoming, non-discriminatory manner
  • Changing public policies to clear the way for more LGBT elder housing and bar housing discrimination against LGBT older people
  • Educating LGBT older people in how to look for LGBT-friendly housing and how to exercise their rights
  • Expanding LGBT-friendly services available in housing sites across the country. 

We hope you'll sign up for updates from SAGE online here and stay in touch as this critical initiative moves forward! 

January 26, 2015

Triumphs of Experience

Many of our SAGE supporters have asked to be kept up on information related to Successful AgingWe recently alerted them to the publication of Triumphs of Experience, a book by the head of the Grant Study of Adult Development at Harvard University.   Showing, as it does, the impact of both circumstances and choices on aging, the book is a great addition to the Successful Aging bookshelf.

The study, which began in 1938, meticulously tracked the lives of 268 Harvard men students from that time forward.  Collecting data at repeated intervals over 75 years about various points of interest—physical, emotional, mental, etc.—the study tracks not only what happened to its various participants as they aged, but helps to understand why things turned out the way they did.  While the study was limited to a rather privileged group of male participants (as was Harvard in those days), many of its  conclusions have application to society generally.

One of the consistent messages of SAGE’s Successful Aging initiative is that there’s no one “magic bullet” when it comes to creating a rewarding and successful life into ones 80’s and 90’s.  This too is the Study’s conclusion.  The book closes with the following:

“[W]hen it comes to healthy aging, everything really is connected to everything else. A happy old age requires both physical health and mental health. For mental health, love is a necessity. So is being alive. So is being able to think straight. We need physical and cognitive competence to build the social surrounds that give us love and support later on, and it is love and support that encourage us to care for ourselves well and keep ourselves healthy, even when the going gets rough. . . . . The ninety-year-olds of the Grant Study took good care of themselves and of their important relationships. And for the most part, they’ve been very happy to be alive."