Beth Israel: Reaching Out to the LGBT Community
It’s dinner hour at The SAGE Center in the Chelsea neighborhood. Several women call out to another to join them at their table. A man asks a young volunteer about the day’s vegetable. Another pours over The New York Times, lingering after his afternoon collage class. A few friends discuss the SAGE Singers.
SAGE, which stands for Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders, is a national organization that offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older adults and their caregivers, advocates for public policy, and provides training for aging providers and LGBT organizations. “This center, which opened in March 2012, provides a comprehensive array of services and programs related to arts and culture, fitness, food and nutrition, health and wellness, and lifelong education to LGBT adults age 60 and over in New York City,” says Sarah Savino, manager of the center.
Mary Simmons, RN, a community health nurse at Beth Israel, (shown above, far left), spends two afternoons a week at the center, in a partnership between Beth Israel and SAGE. “I’ve taken time to get to know everyone and provide some counseling on health issues and medical management,” says Ms. Simmons. “Soon, I’ll be doing programming that focuses on topics of importance to the aging LGBT community,” she adds.
“When we opened the center, Beth Israel ran a health fair for us and it was a big success,” says Tom Weber, Director of Community Services at SAGE (shown above, far right). “This is the kind of dynamic resource this center wants to be,” he added, pointing out that the senior citizen center model that was born in the 1960s hadn’t evolved much over the decades. “The mayor and the New York City Department for the Aging wanted to make senior citizen centers more impactful and so they funded 10 new ones. We are one of those 10 and the only full-time LGBT senior center in the country,” he explains.
The city is not the only entity considering how to better serve the needs of targeted populations. Barbara Warren, Director for LGBT Health Services at Beth Israel (shown above, second from left), points out that Beth Israel’s work with SAGE falls under the broader umbrella of the Destination Diversity Initiative across the entire Continuum Health System, of which Beth Israel is a part. “Beth Israel is increasing and improving our LGBT health services in all settings,” she says. “We believe our partnership with SAGE will be an excellent model for future collaboration with other important organizations, too.”