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7 posts from January 2017

January 27, 2017

Closer to Joy: Trans-formational Meditation at SAGE

Starting mid-January, SAGE’s program staff is delighted to offer an innovative new program: Energy, Power & Joy in Somatic Meditation for Trans People. We had the opportunity to sit down with Diana Goetsch, the facilitator of this somatic meditation program, to learn more.

By Pat Lin 


_E4C0300A life-long learner, teacher, writer, accomplished poet, Tai-chi and yoga practitioner, Diana Goetsch is also the facilitator of SAGE’s groundbreaking new meditation program for older trans people. Goetsch began meditation in 1982 as a university student and was immediately struck by its effects, even before she began to truly deepen her practice. “This practice gave me my life.” Exuding a soothing serenity, Goetsch sat with me to talk about practicing with community, trusting the body, older and younger trans folks, and the potential life-changing benefits of somatic meditation.

 

So what exactly is somatic meditation?

Basically we start to put people in touch with their bodies. At first, this thing called “I” gets in touch with this thing called “the body”. But eventually the difference between the two starts to disappear. And then the body is in touch with the body. And then trouble happens. It's the best trouble in the world. I think we call it Life, with a capital L. 

Wow. How is it different from normal meditation?

Somatic meditation has more emphasis on relaxation and on trusting the body as a wisdom figure. Most meditation that I see places the emphasis on concentration. And it's mental – in the head. This can be helpful for some people. But in somatic meditation, the only transformation that happens is initiated below the neck, in the body. The body is taken as the teacher. And normally people don't listen to our bodies. We're extremely cruel to our bodies. We overfeed them. We underfeed them. We give them drugs. We get them drunk. We use our bodies for our entertainment. And trans people call their bodies wrong. They say, "I'm in the wrong body." Somatic meditation not only makes the body an ally- it does more. It hands over the car keys, frankly. I think that’s the biggest difference, with somatic meditation.

Is there a difference between practicing alone and in a group? 

I think there is, but both are essential. The group practice is very helpful though, especially amongst trans folks, for that feeling of shared energy and understanding. And if you are new, the experience of guidance is a great benefit in helping to stay with the practice and experience its benefits. However, practicing alone helps us lock in and go further on the path. And I think some of the openings and insights that we gain alone are maybe the most profound. But I think we need both. A friend of mine calls it “communion and community”. The communion is that very personal, very unique and individual engagement with a practice. Community is that everyone is essential. 

What do you think about the SAGE community?

I think visiting SAGE and visiting this hub of life is always a pleasure. It's very full of life, this place. What I see are deeply engaged people who are extremely savvy with geriatric issues. There's a lot of respect, a lot of dedication. It's only been a couple months, but I'm so impressed by what I see. Maybe more than anything, there's an energy and spirit about this building. When I see people having dinner together, it’s very different from the people my grandfather lived with at the end of his life, in a residence somewhere in Florida. Waiting to die, frankly. These people are not waiting to die. This is a very vibrant place, and I think they feel cared about. That's the sense I get anyway.

What do you think is the relationship between older and younger people?

The whole emphasis is on young people in America. It’s always been this way. And having been a close friend of my grandfather who lived to be 91, I watched him and other older folks in residences be shoved aside. To me these people were resources for younger people, and vice versa. Older folks derive tremendous amount of energy and validation by mixing with young people, especially kids. I'm beginning now to work with the young end of the spectrum and the older trans folks. Maybe there's a way to get them talking to each other because I think there's a lot of benefit. 

Having worked with both, what things do you notice between the younger and the older generations of trans folks?

What I see among older trans folks that is different from younger trans folks is the result of decades of PTSD. Decades of trauma. Decades of battering. Hurting themselves, even their own thoughts and thought processes. There's a lot of canceling. A lot of self-hatred, a lot of trauma, a lot of shakiness. A lot of frozenness that I don't see in younger trans folks. Younger trans folks have a lot of trouble and I’ve worked with them. But one thing they're much more open to is their bodies and bodily pleasure. Getting with people, having lovers. Older trans folks are much more likely to shut that down. Not always. But they're much more likely to shut it down. They're just kind of happy to survive. And meditation might get us closer to joy. 

Is there anything you’re looking forward to in teaching this class?

I think just the people who show up and what they bring to the table. The discoveries that they will bring to me and to the rest of us. One thing about somatic meditation is that there are guidelines that are thousands of years old. It's just put into American English in an available way. There are guidelines, familiar markers along the way, things I can see and help people with. But ultimately it is always an inner journey. And what people discover through their bodies with embodied practice, they bring back to me and everybody else. So I'm interested in whoever shows up and what they bring back. And they might make discoveries that I've never heard about, so I'm very excited. 

Final Question: What was it like when you first started meditation?

It was a Zen practice. I was learning in college. Most of it was book instruction; it was not very deep teaching. But I think something took deeper root about ten years ago with my teacher Reggie. This practice basically gave me my life. And this practice put me on the path to coming out to myself, if you really want to know. 7 years of doing this and I basically realized, you know what, I'm trans. And I have to live in this way. It was meditation that gave me this. I had my coming out, so to speak, to myself, at a cabin alone for 12 days at 10,000 feet in Colorado doing this practice. How do you like that? It's true. Every word is true. Once you see it in the body, once you listen, once you surrender, and the body puts you on notice, you can't un-see it. 

January 24, 2017

What Home Can Look Like- John C. Anderson Apartments Provides Shining Example of an LGBT Age-Friendly Community

By Pat Lin

Home is a place where there should be no need to hide. Yet many LGBT older people struggle to find housing situations that are both affordable and accepting of residents' sexual orientations and gender identities. Amidst the critical need for accessible, compassionate and LGBT age-friendly homes, John C. Anderson Apartments (JCAA) in Philadelphia stands out as a model community. A diverse cast of LGBT pioneers calls this place home, thanks to the unflagging support of donors, funders, government officials, and residents themselves. That is why SAGE decided to honor John C. Anderson Apartments with the annual SAGE Advocacy Award for Excellence in Leadership on Aging at the 2017 Creating Change Conference.

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On Sunday, Jan 22nd, SAGE CEO Michael Adams presented the SAGE Award to Elizabeth Coffee-Williams, retired transgender film star and resident of the JCAA. Onstage with them stood the community of players who made the LGBT-friendly housing complex a reality. Participants included those who conceived of, built and managed the project, (Mark Segal, Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund, Wallace Roberts & Todd, LLC, and Pennrose Management Inc); the donors, funders and government officials who provided support; the William Way LGBT Community Center, which provides programs and services; and the residents.

Many of the residents were outspoken activists who helped launch the gay rights movement. In their older years, they continue to channel their lively spirits into an active community that serves as a role model for the rest of the country. In an era where many of the hard-won rights our LGBT pioneers fought to secure are under attack, John C. Anderson Apartments offers a resounding example of how local community efforts and dedicated cross-collaborations can create safe spaces for LGBT elders to thrive.

Click to explore housing resources, news and LGBT age-friendly communities with SAGE’s housing portal and interactive map.

January 19, 2017

LGBT Elders: Resilience and Inspiration

SAGEInaugurationDear Friends,

It is often said that one of the greatest measures of a society is how it treats and remembers its elders. SAGE’s commitment to an equitable world where LGBT elders are valued and have boundless opportunities is inspired by this time-honored maxim. The inauguration of our country’s 45th President is a critical moment to reiterate this message. 

Our values as a society must support and honor our elders both because their hard work and perseverance laid the foundation for all that we have today, and because we still very much need their wisdom and contributions. This is especially true for LGBT elders, whose courage in the face of danger and adversity paved the way for marked progress on LGBT equality in recent years. Our LGBT elder pioneers did not lead the movement birthed at Stonewall by being quiet and invisible. In the same vein, faced with dangerous threats on multiple fronts, LGBT elders and their advocate – SAGE – refuse to be silent and invisible now. 

We must ensure that our older generations have the support they need to age safely and with dignity and respect. Like older Americans in general, most LGBT elders rely on Social Security in order to have enough to live on during their retirement, and rely on Medicare and Medicaid for their health and long term care.  Just like other older Americans, LGBT elders rely on community services funded by the federal Older Americans Act. They rely on federal support for senior housing. They rely on the progress the federal government has encouraged through training of aging service providers and the establishment of anti-discrimination protections. These programs and protections are even more essential for elders who are LGBT, people of color and members of other diverse elder communities – all of whom are especially vulnerable due to the accumulated effects of lifetimes of discrimination and marginalization.

While our elders need and deserve our support, we need them just as much.  As we enter a threatening new era when our society’s fundamental values and commitments to each other are under attack, we need the wisdom and fortitude of our LGBT elders now more than ever. We will apply the lessons they learned through decades of hard work and struggle, using that knowledge to build a better future.  We need their creativity, their spirit, their resilience.

In the days, months and years ahead, SAGE will stand firm with our LGBT elders for a policy agenda that makes older Americans a national priority, and that ensures that LGBT elders and elders from all diverse communities are at the center of that priority. We will do everything in our power to advocate for such an agenda. We will vigorously oppose any effort to roll back progress. We will relentlessly pursue our commitment to equity for diverse elder communities.

We at SAGE are inspired and fortified by the wisdom of our elders who have lived through decades of witch hunts, brutality, criminalization, stigma, AIDS and so much more. Our elders remind us that through all of these unspeakably difficult challenges, we stood firm, spoke out, and pushed forward.  

Count on SAGE and our many supporters to continue that great tradition by standing with LGBT elders and honoring their unique voices and wisdom. This week you can find SAGE making sure LGBT elders’ voices are heard at the Women’s March in our nation’s capital, leading an elder activism institute at the national LGBT Creating Change conference in Philadelphia, and gearing up for a new initiative – SAGETable – that will connect LGBT people of every age all across the country.

Please, join us! Let’s be proud to be measured by how we treat and remember our elders.

Sincerely,

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Michael Adams

LGBT elders needing emotional support are invited to call the SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline. SAGE established the hotline to make sure that LGBT elders have support no matter where they live. Provided in partnership with the GLBT National Help Center, calls are being taken at 888-234-SAGE (7243) on Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to midnight and from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturdays.

January 18, 2017

A handful of people shouted, "You don't live here! You don't belong here!"

Story

"When I would hear these instances of egregious anti-gay harassment, I sometimes thought maybe, well this might be a little conjured up, or there may be something they're not saying."

On a conceptual level, Jim Brooks and Bob Campbell have always understood that discrimination against LGBT is a reality. And yet, they had long hard reservations about fully believing people because they hadn’t experienced it themselves. It wasn’t until Jim and Bob were confronted with homophobia through housing that they learned how pervasive, nuanced and insidious LGBT discrimination and harassment can be.

Find out how Jim and Bob battled bigotry in their Arizona neighborhood in the latest SAGE Story. Then explore resources, news and LGBT age-friendly communities with SAGE’s housing portal and interactive map.

January 17, 2017

What LGBT Seniors Stand to Lose in ACA Repeal

This post originally appeared on the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation website on January 13, 206. Read the original post here.

By Aaron Tax

This blog is part of a series to highlight the dangers of the repealing the Affordable Care Act. Multiple times a week, Community Catalyst will highlight a different constituency to draw attention to the benefits the ACA has afforded them and to outline what a loss of coverage would mean.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) older adults face many of the same health and aging challenges other older adults face, but more pronounced. As a result, they are arguably more at risk if the incoming administration and Congress repeals the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a replacement plan and/or makes significant and harmful changes to Medicaid and Medicare.

LGBT older adults face unique risks within the health care system due to the standard issues facing an aging population combined with their sexual orientation or gender identity, such as:

  • Aging Combined with Discrimination: Similar to the older population in general, LGBT older adults face challenges with aging: declining health, diminished income, and the loss of friends and family. LGBT older adults, however, also face the added burden of actual or feared discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Many choose to go back into the closet for fear that caregivers will discriminate against them. Transgender adults, however, do not even have that option. Despite federal prohibitions on discrimination based on sex stereotyping and gender identity and the prohibition of discriminatory practices toward LGBT individuals based on health status - such as being HIV positive - built into the ACA, the sex stereotyping and gender identity protections are currently under attack in the courts, and LGBT older adults remain one of the most invisible, underserved and at-risk elder populations.
  • Isolation from Society, Services and Supports: Studies show that LGBT older adults are twice as likely to live alone; half as likely to have close relatives to call for help; and more than four times less likely to have children to help them. Nearly one-in-four LGBT older adults has no one to call in case of an emergency. At the same time, studies document that LGBT older adults access essential services – including visiting nurses, food stamps, senior centers and meal programs – much less frequently than the general aging population.
  • Lack of Access to Culturally Competent Health Care: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has found that LGBT older adults face additional health barriers because of isolation combined with a lack of access to social services and culturally competent providers. These barriers result in increased rates of depression; higher rates of alcohol and tobacco use; and lower rates of preventive screenings. 
  • Higher Rates of Poverty: LGBT older adults reflect the diversity of our nation in terms of gender, race and ethnic identity. But there is one critical statistic where they do not reflect the norm: they have much higher poverty rates and lower average household income than their straight and cis-gender counterparts. In fact, 35 percent of SAGE clients in New York City have annual pre-tax incomes below $10,000 and rely on Medicaid – a program with looming threats of block grants or per capita caps - to provide their medical care. An additional 35 percent subsist on annual pre-tax incomes of $20,000 or less and qualify for coverage under Medicaid expansion or could utilize tax credits to purchase insurance on the Marketplace. The Medicare-eligible segment of this population benefits from the ACA having lowered Medicare Part B premiums, the closing of the “donut hole” for prescription drugs, and payment and delivery reforms aimed at improving quality and the coordination of care for individuals with complex care needs.
  • HIV: As of 2015, the CDC estimates that one in two people who are HIV positive in the United States are now over 50. Yet little attention and money is targeted towards prevention for this population. One of the free preventive services covered by the ACA is HIV screening, though recommended testing in the U.S. cuts off at age 64. As a result, older adults are much more likely to be dually diagnosed with HIV and AIDS if and when they are ultimately tested.

Because of higher rates of health disparities, un-insurance, poverty and a greater reliance on programs like Medicaid and Medicare - two programs that could be facing significant retooling and subsequent funding cuts in the coming years - the protections provided by these programs and enacted in the ACA are critical for improving the quality of life for older LGBT individuals.

As we enter an uncertain time, we believe that we must do more to honor and support the LGBT elders who fought the fight and paved the way for the recent advances we have seen on LGBT rights. The least we can do is ensure that this population still has access to the foundational supports provided by the ACA, Medicaid and Medicare.

Aaron Tax, Director of Federal Government Relations, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)

 

January 9, 2017

Make the Most of SAGE's Housing Website with These Seven Tips

In September, SAGE launched Welcome Home, the first-of-its-kind LGBT age-friendly housing website and interactive map. This comprehensive consumer resource is designed to empower LGBT elders and those who care for them with the information they need to find safe, welcoming and affordable housing nationwide. Here are some tips for making the most of this new resource:

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1. Enroll in SAGE Housing 101.

Housing 101 isn’t an actual course but a state of mind. Want to know where LGBT age-friendly housing is being built? Curious about new options for retirement living but not sure where to start? Want to hear stories from others just like you from around the country? Need help filing a housing discrimination complaint? Watch the video below, then go to the Housing 101 page for more.

2. Know your rights.

Knowledge is power. Housing discrimination is on the rise, and it’s important for LGBT elders and those who care for them to be prepared for discrimination before it happens. See the Know Your Rights page for helpful consumer guides, including Lambda Legal’s housing FAQ for LGBT elders, then browse LGBT housing news and anti-discrimination cases across the country.

3. Keep up with the latest research.

According to SAGE’s Out and Visible report, when searching for housing, 1 in 8 LGBT older people report they have been discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientations, and 1 in 4 transgender older people report discrimination on the basis of their gender identities. Opening Doors, a report published by the Equal Rights Center, revealed that nearly half of older same-sex couples experienced at least one form of adverse differential treatment (as compared to heterosexual couples) when inquiring about housing in a senior living facility. Follow the Reports and Presentations page for research published by the nation’s leading LGBT organizations.

4. Subscribe to the SAGE blog.

Want to be the first to know about housing news, website improvements and new features? Follow the SAGE blog. Be sure to leave your comments and questions, and share on social media!

5. Read SAGE news as it happens.

Last summer, SAGE, HELP USA and BFC Partners announced the development of New York City’s first senior housing with services specifically designed for the LGBT community. Read about these developments and other SAGE housing news and see SAGE press releases for official statements.

6. Watch and share SAGE’s housing videos.

SAGE produced a series of housing videos in partnership with Citi, and features them regularly on the housing website's main page. Watch the whole series and look for new videos here.

7. Get interactive.

Now it’s easier than ever to know what’s happening in LGBT age-friendly housing with SAGE’s interactive housing map. Click a state to view housing policies and news, access culturally competent providers, and connect with organizations that can help, including SAGENet affiliates.

Still can’t find what you’re looking for? Want to suggest a new feature or submit a housing resource? Email SAGE at engagement@sageusa.org.

January 2, 2017

New Year, New SAGECare Train the Trainer


TJohnston1By Tim R. Johnston

This year I’m resolving to double my efforts to train service providers on LGBT cultural competency. From housing providers to nurses to service coordinators, it’s my job to make sure that more people know the "ins and outs" of providing services and care that are welcoming to our community. 

That’s why SAGE is growing its roster of SAGECare Certified Trainers. Beginning with in-person training and expanding to webinars and on-demand content, SAGE and SAGECare Certified Trainers have trained more than 13,000 providers in all 50 states. A series of rigorous evaluations reveals that SAGE trainings create positive changes in participants’ knowledge and attitudes about LGBT older adults and aging. SAGECare offers trained agencies the chance to earn a SAGECare-branded credential that demonstrates their commitment to LGBT older adults.

SAGECare Trainers are certified to conduct one- and four-hour in-person trainings. Trainings employ several different teaching methods to help participants develop empathy for LGBT older adults, learn about LGBT cultures, and gain the skills needed to provide culturally competent care to LGBT people. Trainings are challenging, fun, impactful and often emotional. SAGECare is a national program and SAGE invites applicants from all regions, with a special emphasis on New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles.

Our next Train the Trainer will be in Chicago from May 23-25, 2017 – do you want to apply? More information, including information on travel costs, how much trainers are paid, and more can be found on the application.

If you can’t make the next Train the Trainer event but still want to get involved, another great option is SAGE’s National Resource Center on LGBT Aging’s Volunteer Education Ambassador program. Once approved, Volunteer Education Ambassadors are given a presentation they can use to help raise awareness about LGBT older adults and LGBT aging. Ambassadors all across the country have presented to local community groups, churches, universities and conferences.

When I conduct a training people often say, "LGBT aging—I’ve never thought about that!" Join me and help SAGE make 2017 the year that makes LGBT aging and LGBT older adults a top priority. Say it with me: "LGBT aging, yes I care about that!"

Click here to apply for SAGECare's next Train the Trainer event.

Click to explore housing resources, news and LGBT age-friendly communities with SAGE’s housing portal and interactive map.