33 posts categorized "Conferences"

September 27, 2016

NICOA’s 40th Anniversary and the Resilience of AI/AN Elders


In September, the National Indian Council on Aging, Inc. (NICOA) held its biennial conference in celebration of its 40th anniversary. At the conference, SAGE’s Michael Adams touched on various aspects of aging, including policies that impact the lives of LGBT AI/AN elders. DEC's Jenna McDavid reports. Image: Cynthia LaCounte (ACL) and Michael Adams.

September 23, 2016

SAGE and ASA Co-Host #LGBTGenerations Panel


When the American Society on Aging (ASA) decided to focus the Summer 2016 issue of Generations on LGBT aging, it marked a milestone in the march toward visibility and respect for LGBT elders.

On September 21, SAGE CEO Michael Adams joined other authors in the issue for a special panel discussion co-hosted by SAGE and ASA in New York. Adams' article "An Intersectional Approach to Services and Care for LGBT Elders" considers the unique strengths and challenges of LGBT elders.

Connect with Michael Adams on Twitter and see the event recap on Storify to learn more about why he believes practitioners and policymakers must bring an intersectional analysis to their work. Do you have thoughts on the subject? Join the conversation on social media with #LGBTGenerations!

March 28, 2016

Getting In The Game at the 2016 Aging in America Conference

By Ben de Guzman 

This post originally appeared on Diverse Elders Coalition on March 25, 2016. Read the original post here.

The Diverse Elders Coalition and its five member organizations had a large presence at this year’s Aging in America Conference, which wrapped up last week in Washington, DC. Coincidentally, aging issues in America got a boost at the same time, as the U.S. House of Representatives took a critical vote on the Older Americans Act. While it was exciting to be in the same space as thousands of other people in the aging network while this major legislative hurdle was passed, the conference itself offered reminders of how much work there is still left to do to make sure diverse elders and their needs are being served. 

AiapicWith over 21 sessions, the DEC and its member organizations offered a wide range of programming on the issues of concern for its constituencies. From housing to economic security to healthy aging, the expertise of our member organizations was well represented. On Monday, I had the pleasure of moderating a great conversation about cultural competence with representatives of four of our member groups. Randella Bluehouse from the National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA), Dr. Wes Lum from the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA), Maria Eugenia Hernandez Lane from the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), and Sherrill Wayland from Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) gave concrete examples of how their work is particularly tailored to their constituencies as testament to the need to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services. As someone who started his career in DC working on cultural competence in health care settings, it was interesting to revisit this space with my colleagues across our coalition and learn about their work.

SAGE staff at ASA 2016.

Our Symposium on Tuesday, “Getting in the Game: Diverse Elders and Civic Engagement,” was an opportunity for the five principals who lead our member organizations to come together on stage to talk collectively about their work and the constituencies we serve. The election year and the current candidates vying for President have been a topic of conversation throughout the conference, and our Symposium allowed our presenters an opportunity to talk about what it will mean to mobilize our communities during this important time. The principals were also able to make some of the first public statements since the House of Representatives announced their vote in favor of Senate Bill 192, the Older Americans Act, without opposition. While recognizing the importance this legislation has for all our communities, we noted our organizations’ policy recommendations about how to make this legislation more inclusive for diverse elders. From better data collection, to more explicit provisions around culturally competent service delivery, to stronger anti-discrimination language, our organizations have been at the forefront of working for an Older Americans Act that will truly serve ALL older Americans.

Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), perhaps best summed up the challenges and opportunities our elders face when she introduced herself at the Symposium. She noted that although she came to this country as the daughter of refugees from Vietnam and talked about the ongoing challenges older refugees face such as post-traumatic stress, she was clear about being a child of war and one descended from a line of warriors. Their resilience in the face of dire adversity is what allows them to survive and what inspires us to do more for them so they can thrive.


March 18, 2016

The 2016 Aging in America Conference: Bringing the Diverse Elders Coalition Together


By Ben de Guzman 

This post originally appeared on Diverse Elders Coalition on March 16, 2016. Read the original post here.

Washington, DC, is a beautiful city this time of year. While we haven’t quite hit the peak time for the annual cherry blossoms to be in bloom, the weather is just beginning to turn to spring and the greenery is just beginning to come out from its winter hibernation. As a longtime resident of the District, I always appreciate springtime and look especially forward to the many conferences and local events that bring friends and colleagues into town to take advantage of both the beauty the city has to offer, and the unique role we play as the nation’s capital.

I’m waiting with particularly eager anticipation for next week’s 2016 Aging in America Conference, which will be held March 20-24 at the Marriott Wardman and Omni Shoreham Hotels. This conference is one of the largest of its kind and brings thousands of leaders, advocates, policymakers, researchers, and elders together to talk about the latest advances in serving the nation’s aging population. The Diverse Elders Coalition and its member organizations have an ambitious slate of programming on tap, including robust programming, a face-to-face meeting with the principals of our organizations, and social opportunities to connect with our member groups. You can check it all out here.

Photo from last year’s LAIN event at the 2015 Aging in America Conference.

As five leading national organizations serving elders of color, American Indian/Alaska Native elders, and LGBT elders, our member groups have unique constituencies that are often not served by the attendees of the conference. The Symposium we are putting on as a coalition, “Getting in the Game: Diverse Elders and Civic Engagement,” will be an opportunity to put the spotlight on those elders who are all too often not part of the conversations that usually happen here. Our member groups will share stories and resources from their decades of experience directly engaging and serving their communities and what that means for the current political climate. The Symposium will be held on Tuesday, March 22 at 9:00 am in the Marriott Wardman Park Washington 4 room.

The unique needs, challenges, and strengths of the constituencies our member groups serve will be centered on the discussion we will have around cultural competence. Staff of our member groups will come together for a session that I will moderate on “Providing Culturally Competent Services for Diverse Elders,” which will be held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel Congressional B Room on Monday, March 21 at 1:30 pm. My first job coming to Washington, DC focused on supporting culturally competent health care practices, so this conversation will be a personally meaningful way to bring my career thus far full circle and see how the field has evolved in the more than 16 years since I last worked in it.

The Diverse Elders Coalition gives me the opportunity to work with five teams of people doing important work for elders who are too frequently ignored by too many systems that are supposed to serve them. Although the five teams work in different spaces on a range of issues, events like the 2016 Aging in America Conference is an important venue to come together as colleagues, compare notes, and recommit ourselves to the ongoing work to refocus the attention of policymakers and the aging advocacy movement to the constituencies we serve. 

March 17, 2016

SAGEWorks: Helping Women Rejoin the Workforce

By Vera Lukacs

As part of a larger effort to support and benefit LGBT older adults, SAGE held a special SAGEWorks event on March 16th to help those looking to rejoin the workforce. Panelists included Jason Rosenbaum (Thomson Reuters), Jens Audenaert (ADP), JoAnne D'Aleo (The Transition Network), Angela Lee (Callen-Lorde), Addie Rimmer (Workforce Opportunity Services) and Tawanna Huguley (Good Shepherd Services).

Participant Wanda Lawrence found the event highly informative. “I’m feeling more confident now as opposed to when I walked in the door. This has been a challenge for me but I feel very supported in this space.”

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2016-03-17/c3f59f4c19cf4d92949f611587285b53.pngPanelists at SAGE Center Midtown: Photo by Michele D'Amato

In the article, Older Women Are Being Forced Out of the Workforce, Harvard Business Review highlights a study by economists at the University of California at Irvine and Tulane University that uncovers “robust evidence of age discrimination in hiring against older women.” One example of gender and age disparities in the workforce is the lower callback rate for middle-aged female applicants, as compared to their younger counterparts. The rate comparison between middle-aged and young male applicants was similar.

It’s no surprise that women and men experience the workplace differently. For instance, a woman makes 79 cents to every dollar a man makes. It’s a cold, hard fact that women have a harder time getting jobs, keeping them, and growing within their positions over time — and it’s especially challenging for older women in the LGBT community.

SAGEWorks, a national employment initiative for LGBT adults 40 years and older, connects LGBT job seekers with the skills and support to land a job in their desired field. Programs include 2-week boot camps, individual coaching, work readiness exercises, and more.

To commemorate Women’s History Month, SAGE is sharing the unique perspectives of aging LGBT women. Do you have a workplace story to share? Tell us in the comments!  

March 15, 2016

Engaging Volunteers in Grassroots Awareness Building

This post originally appeared on Diverse Elders Coalition on March 15th, 2016. Read the original post here.

by Tim Johnston, Assistant Director of Social Enterprise and Training, and Sherrill Wayland, Manager of National Projects, at SAGE.

Sometimes it feels like every time we turn around, somebody is talking about working at the grassroots level. From grassroots education and political organizing to crowdsourcing and the hive mind, focusing on grassroots engagement is certainly popular, but what does it really mean, and why is it useful?

To us, grassroots engagement means engaging and supporting a diffuse and diverse network of volunteers; in particular, folks who are outside of our professional and personal networks. Here’s an example: we manage the largest LGBT aging provider training program in the United States. It’s our job to make sure that people all across the country know the unique needs and resiliencies of LGBT older adults and best practices for working with our communities. We have a group of tireless certified trainers, but several years ago we realized that if we really want to reach as many people as possible, we needed to start working at the grassroots level. There are LGBT older adults and allies across the country in places of worship, community centers, and advocacy groups, and we can’t reach all of these groups even with our committed, but limited, training corps. So we started thinking, how can we engage folks in communities all across the country and help them become advocates within their own networks? How can we raise awareness at the grassroots level?


This led to the creation of the Volunteer Education Ambassador Program. Ambassadors register on SAGE’s National Resource Center on LGBT Aging website and are given a toolkit including a PowerPoint presentation, a script, and a set of Frequently Asked Questions. Ambassadors are encouraged to use these materials to raise awareness about LGBT aging, and when we receive requests for speakers we can pass those requests along to Ambassadors. With 160 Ambassadors in 43 states, this program has proven to be a great way for us to get the word out about LGBT aging in areas and networks that we otherwise would not have been able to reach. The leadership of a community group in San Diego, Boise, or New Orleans might not respond to our call or email about LGBT aging, but they often are interested when approached by somebody they know.

At this year’s Aging in America conference we’ll be facilitating a workshop about “Engaging Volunteers in Grassroots Awareness Building” where we will discuss the successes and challenges we’ve experienced developing this program. We will be answering questions like, what can a grassroots program accomplish for your organization? Why do people volunteer, and how can you keep them engaged? If you are going to attend the conference please stop by, and if you are interested in becoming an Ambassador please register here!

TJohnston1-150x150Tim R. Johnston, PhD is the Assistant Director of Social Enterprise & Training at Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE). He is responsible for directing SAGE’s national training initiatives, developing training curricula, and providing consulting services to both aging and LGBT service providers. He tweets at @johnstontimr. 




S_wayland-1-150x150Sherrill Wayland is the Manager of National Projects at Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), where she manages the day-to-day operations of the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging (NRC) as well as working with SAGE’s National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative and other key national projects.





March 8, 2016

Remembering International Women’s Day

By Vera Lukacs 

In today’s world, women of all ages are largely overlooked, discouraged, and unsupported in accomplishing their goals. This is especially true in the LGBT older women’s community. It is critical that in the larger community we are empowering and elevating the voices of women of all ages and backgrounds. With this in mind, SAGE is celebrating the following individuals: 


Katherine Acey and SAGE's CEO Michael Adams at Creating Change-- Photo by Gretchen Rachel Hammond

Katherine Acey, recipient of the SAGE Award for Excellence in Leadership on Aging Issues, is exceptionally noteworthy. Acey, an Arab American, is a highly respected feminist in the LGBT older adult community. She was the executive director for Astrea Lesbian Foundation for Justice for 23 years. Two other notable heroes are Ruth Berman and Connie Kurtz, recipients of the SAGE Pioneer Award. Berman and Kurtz have been together for 42 years and married since July 26th, 2011— two days after New York recognized marriage equality. Featured in the documentary, Ruthie and Connie: Every Room in the House, the couple fights for the protection and equality of LGBT elders. 

Who are some of your favorite heroines? It can be a celebrity, a friend, or an inspiring family member like mine.  

When I was asked to write about the significance of Women’s History Month and SAGE’s work with women throughout the years, I spent days racking my brain trying to think of who I could claim as an inspiring female role model. I thought about women in history like Audre Lorde, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and CeCe McDonald. Or maybe I’d list some of my best friends, who are all doing incredible work for the women’s rights movement. While making burritos for my partner and I on a Sunday night, my mind suddenly went to my female role model: my 14-year-old cousin, Olivia Najarian.  

I first heard about the remarkable work Olivia is doing with the World Bicycle Relief through her mother’s Facebook. World Bicycle Relief is an organization that provides bikes to people in communities that are less fortunate. In April 2015, Olivia kick-started her work with the organization by writing an essay for their blog on why she wanted to fundraise for them, and the importance of certain disparities between western culture and that of other parts of the world. She is currently working on a project of her own called Good Spokes, a nonprofit that aims to provide safe access to education on health care for people in need. Olivia is just one example of what a young woman can achieve with a bit of support, encouragement, and a lot of determination. 

Vera Lukacs is SAGE's Digital Media Assistant. 

January 27, 2016

Rage Against the Dying of the Light: Aging from Diverse Perspectives

Vega Subramaniam shares her story on caregiving.

SAGE was proud to be presenting on a panel with our partners in the Diverse Elders Coalition at Creating Change, taking place last week in Chicago. The panel entitled, “Rage Against the Dying of the Light: Aging from Diverse Perspectives,” discussed the specific needs that diverse elders have as they age and whether current programs, services, supports, and laws allow us to meet the needs of these growing and intersecting populations. It delved into a variety of “isms” and phobias, from racism and ageism to transphobia and biphobia. And it explored what we can do at the federal, state, and local levels to address the myriad challenges and opportunities diverse aging presents.


As SAGE’s point person on federal affairs, I talked about what the federal government can do to address the unique challenges faced by LGBT older adults. As a population that faces pronounced social isolation, higher poverty rates than their non-LGBT counterparts, and at the same time, diminished access to culturally competent services, supports, and healthcare, our federal government can and should do more. It has the tools to address the chasm that exists between the greater need and the lower likelihood of this population accessing the critical services and supports they need to remain independent.

What can be done? As Congress works to reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA), it can include language proposed by Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Patrick Murphy that would target LGBT older adults for services and supports and hold the aging network accountable for reaching them – all by designating LGBT older adults a group of “Greatest Social Need.” Read more about our recommendations on updating the OAA via our latest policy report: Updating the Older Americans Act: Why Do LGBT Older Adults Need Support?

In the meantime, the Obama Administration can help as well. The Administration on Aging can require states to evaluate whether they are meeting the needs of LGBT older adults in their communities – and if they find they are not – require the states to report back on how they will meet the needs of LGBT older adults in their communities.

Many thanks to Ben de Guzman, Diverse Elders Coalition; Maria Glover-Wallace, Affinity Community Services; Vega Subramaniam, Vega Mala Consulting for sharing their stories and viewpoints. This esteemed panel discussed both the challenges facing LGBT older adults and their counterparts and what we all can do – from Congress and the Obama Administration to activists in communities across the country – to ensure that all older adults get the services and supports they need to age with dignity. 


January 19, 2016

Join SAGE at Creating Change!

SAGE at Creating Change
It's that time of year again! CREATING CHANGE! Creating Change is an annual gathering of organizers and activists working to create a world in which sexual orientations and gender expressions will be welcomed and celebrated. SAGE will be there representing and advocating for LGBT older adults and providing a series of workshops, trainings and a safe space for our elders to be celebrated.

Here's the aging track at a glance! Don't forget about the Accessibility Hospitality Suite located in Room 1203 and the Elder Hospitality Suite in Room 2079! 

Elder Hospitality Suite, Room 2079
Thursday  8am-8pm Friday & Saturday  8am-10pm
Stop by for refreshment, relaxation, networking, and conversation! There will also be opportunities to record and share your own stories.

Meals available daily (times are approximate):
Breakfast 8:00am Lunch 12:00pm Dinner 5:30pm

Special Programming:
Thurs 6:00 -7:00pm—Senior Voice: Constituent Advocacy Group from Center on Halsted
Fri 12:15-1:15pm—LGBTQ in Chicago: A Historical Perspective with John D’Emilio
Fri 6:00-8:00pm— Cross Generational Storytelling Program in Youth Suite
Sat 6:00-7:00pm— National Landscape Snapshot with Serena Worthington, SAGE and Troy Johnson, Center on Halsted


LGBT Elder and Ally Advocacy and Movement Building: Towards Equal Treatment for All
9:00am-6:30pm Lake Huron, 8th Floor
This Institute convenes LGBT people and their allies to learn how to 1) tell a powerful story 2) capture stories in the field and 3) learn how stories are used to tackle issues of primary importance to LGBT elders across the country. The day opens with stories from LGBT activists, including members of SAGE Center on Halsted’s noted Senior Voice program and also features a series of skill building workshops focused on storytelling fundamentals taught by Christa Orth, a storyteller from Brooklyn, New York. The second half of the day focuses on storytelling models including OUTSpoken!, a monthly live event in Chicago that features LBGTQ storytelling.

Our afternoon workshops consist of technical training on capturing stories using video via smartphones video and audio interviews using the StoryCorps model. The day will culminate in the capturing of individual stories. LGBT older adults, staff and constituents of aging service agencies, LGBT and social justice organizations, and students are encouraged to attend. All are welcome!
Hosted by Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) and  facilitated by Serena Worthington, Director of National Field Initiatives, SAGE


Building Age Inclusive LGBT Centers and Services
Workshop 19:00am–10:30am Williford B, 3rd Floor
LGBT older adults are often overlooked by the LGBT community. We know from both research and anecdotal evidence that LGBT older adults often do not feel welcome or comfortable accessing LGBT services, community centers, and programming. This is a critically underserved population that is often quite isolated. Many LGBT organizations have enhanced their efforts at creating outreach and programming that will help bring in LGBT older adults. This presentation will highlight a new guide from the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging and give participants concrete suggestions for reaching LGBT older adults.
Presenters: Tim Johnston, SAGE; Terri Clark, ActionAIDS

Challenging Ageism
Workshop 2 10:45am–12:15pm Room 4A, 4th Floor
Ageism is not spoken about, understood, addressed, or acted upon in very many places despite all the publicity about how the US population is “growing older.” Old people are ignored, ridiculed, patronized, and told they should look young, act young, think young, etc. Young women especially start worrying about looking old in their 20s, something indicated on many birthday cards. For the health and wellbeing of all, especially old people, we need to learn how to recognize it at many ages and practice challenging it. Lesbians over 60 from Old Lesbians Organizing for Change will share information, tell personal stories, and circulate ads and birthday cards that illustrate how ageism works. We will ask attendees for stories and examples of how they can respond to these. The group will do role plays to practice challenging ageism.
Presenters:  Jan Griesinger and Ali Marrero-Calderon, Old Lesbians Organizing for Change

 SAGE Advocacy Award for Excellence in Leadership on Aging Issues Honoring Katherine Acey
Presented by SAGE CEO Michael Adams 
Plenary Session: State of the Movement
1:30pm–2:45pm  •  International Ballroom

Longing for Home: Safe & Affordable Elder Housing
Workshop 59:00am–10:30am PDR 2, 3rd Floor
One of the biggest issues facing many LGBT older adults is finding safe, affordable housing in cities across the country.  Due to higher levels of financial insecurity and a general lack    of affordable housing, many LGBT elders find that they cannot afford homes in the communities they may have lived in for years. Others face harassment and intimidation in their homes and in long-term care settings from aging professionals, other residents, and even their own family members. In recent years, LGBT aging advocates have begun addressing these housing insecurities through a variety of approaches including: expanding programs and services; training providers; changing policy; and educating consumers. Join us for a conversation about how these approaches are being implemented nation-wide.
Presenters: Serena Worthington, SAGE; Britta Larson, Center on Halsted; Tripp Mills, Los Angeles LGBT Center

Rage Against the Dying of the Light: LGBT Aging Diverse Perspectives
Workshop 6 10:45am–12:15pm PDR 2, 3rd Floor
What are the unique needs that LGBT people of color face as they get older? Are programs, services, policies, and laws meeting those needs? This discussion will identify some of the resources for LGBT elders of color, and will allow participants to think about the intersecting impacts of ageism, racism, homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. Presenters will facilitate a discussion with national perspectives and local solutions.
Presenters: Ben de Guzman, Diverse Elders Coalition; Maria Glover-Wallace, Affinity Community Services; Vega Subramaniam, Vega Mala Consulting; Aaron Tax, SAGE; Serena Worthington, SAGE

OLOC (Old Lesbians Organizing for Change) Caucus
Caucus 2 6:30pm–7:30pm PDR 4, 3rd Floor
OLOC (Old Lesbians Organizing for Change) Caucus will help attendees become familiar with the Organization of Old Lesbians and the lives of Old Lesbians. Attendees will discuss their own communities and the need for Old Lesbian activism, community building, and education about ageism and the intersection with other oppressions. Attendees will also leave with information on how to start a group or chapter in their own geographic area.
Presenters: Ruth Debra, Sally Tatnall, Jan Griesinger and Bonnie Wagner from Old Lesbians Organizing for Change

Queer People of Color Elders Caucus
Caucus 2 6:30pm–7:30pm Room 4E, 4th Floor
For the first time in U.S. history, there is a critical mass of out, activist queer people of color who are approaching retirement age. Our generation is the open-faced-sandwich generation, caring for elder parents, but not necessarily having children to care for us. Let’s start sharing our questions and struggles, and start planning together. This caucus is a venue for us to address questions such as: How will we ensure that service providers are culturally competent? Who will make decisions about our care, death, and funeral? In our QPOC social movements, how do we create intergenerational spaces and pass on institutional knowledge? What legacy do we want to leave?
Presenters: Vega Subramaniam, Vega Mala Consulting; Ben de Guzman, Diverse Elders Coalition; Maria Glover-Wallace, Affinity Community Services

LGBT Elders 50+ and Allies Dance

9:00pm-Midnight Continental  A&B, Lobby Level
Join DJ OCD who will be blending and mixing Chicago House, Spanish and Latino tunes for us to boogie down to, shake a tail feather at and party all night with. This annual event is free and open to people of all ages, races, faith traditions, sexual orientations and gender identities. All Welcome! Sponsored by AARP.


December 21, 2015

LGBT Older Adults Town Hall or the First Time I Visited Florida

I have a confession. Until last week, I had never been to Florida. As a West Coaster for much of my life, Florida was simply too far. My inaugural visit was to Fort Lauderdale and included: eating lots of tacos; having everyone apologize to me because it was 80 degrees and overcast; attending the largest weekly gathering of LGBT older adults in the US; visiting with folks from our oldest affiliate, SAGE of South Florida and our newest, SAGE Tampa Bay; and, the main reason for my visit, serving on a panel at Town Hall meeting focused on LGBT older adults. I was proud to join a distinguished panel and a sizable crowd of LGBT and allied people for this important conversation. Moderated by the knowledgeable and passionate Hannah Willard, Policy and Outreach Coordinator for Equality Florida, the panel included David Jobin, President/Chief Executive Officer, Our Fund; Elizabeth Schwartz, Esq., Principal, Elizabeth F. Schwartz Attorneys and Mediators; and Stephanie Schneider, Esq., Board Certified Elder Law Attorney, Law Office of Stephanie L. Schneider, P.A.

In partnership with AARP Florida, Equality Florida, Our Fund and SAGE, the Town Hall was held at the Pride Center at Equality Park in the Wilton Manors neighborhood. Just north of downtown Fort Lauderdale, Wilton Manors is described by USA today as, “the epicenter of gay life in all of South Florida.” This sounds a little hyperbolic but the census data lines right up. “The 2012 U.S. Census revealed which cities have the highest concentration of same-sex couple households (among cities with a population of 65,000 or above). The surprising frontrunner? Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where same-sex couples make up a whopping 2.8 percent of total households.” Another stat, which will surprise no one, is that 19.1% of Floridans are over 65.

Whenever I’m lucky enough to be around lots and lots of LGBT people, I experience a familiar duality. I’m exhilarated by the density of people like me; I feel safe; I feel a kind of calm and warmth and, simultaneously, I’m saddened by the reality that even in a place like Wilton Manors—where I can enjoy the sight of two older women walking hand-in-hand, gray heads bent towards each other, strolling slowly across a parking lot—even in this epicenter of gay life, LGBT people, including our elders, do not have full equality.

“AARP knows that for too long, LGBT elders have faced challenges as they navigate life that others do not.  In order to best fight for and equip each individual to live their best life as they age, it’s imperative for us to know what issues this community is facing and how we can collaborate to address them.”  Jeff Johnson, State Director, AARP Florida

This concentration of LGBT elders warrants our attention and our action. Stratton Pollitzer, Deputy Director of Equality Florida, clarifies why. “LGBT elders encounter the same challenges as other seniors: declining health, diminished income, ageism, the loss of family and friends. But, as so many know first hand, LGBT elders often must deal with ignorance and discrimination in the services available to them. That makes them among the most invisible, stigmatized, underserved and at-risk populations in the country.” This Town Hall, is the first of two community dialogues in Florida to learn how aging service providers and LGBT organizations in Florida are working to address these vast concerns and to identify what else needs to be done to assure that LGBT older adults in Florida enjoy a high quality of life free from discrimination. The second will be on Tuesday, Feb. 23, at the Metro Wellness Community Center, home of SAGE Tampa Bay.

David highlighted a new South Florida initiative by Our Fund and SAGE called Protecting Our Elders (POE). Working with local LGBT organizations, POE seeks to change the landscape and ensure that any services to or care required by an LGBT elder happens in a welcoming and discrimination-free environment. Stephanie and Elizabeth (who serves on SAGE’s board of directors) addressed legal and financial issues and I shared market research from our recent report, Out & Visible: The Experiences and Attitudes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Older Adults, Ages 45-75. From the quality of the suggestions, observations and questions from the audience, it seems to me that the mix of informed LGBT older adults, engaged organizations from the aging sector like AARP Florida, committed funders like Our Fund, and hard-working LGBT organizations like Equality Florida are exactly what’s needed in this fight. 

By: Serena Worthington, Director of National Field Initiatives
Follow her on Twitter at @SerenaWorthy