31 posts categorized "Health & Wellness"

October 8, 2014

New National Study: Five Things You Should Know About Aging and LGBT People

Today’s post is from Robert Espinoza, Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications at SAGE. It was originally featured on The Huffington Post. Follow Robert on Twitter.

Much has been written about the growing number of older people in this country (as the baby boom generation rapidly ages), as well as the incremental shift in favorable policies and attitudes toward certain segments of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population. However, less public attention has been placed on the intersection of these two trends: how LGBT people experience aging, beginning in midlife all the way through later life.

BLOGCovernew research reportOut and Visible: The Experiences and Attitudes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Older Adults, Ages 45-76—sheds new light on these issues. Based on a 2014 nationally representative study of more than 1,800 LGBT people and more than 500 non-LGBT people, Out and Visible extensively describes how LGBT people feel and experience areas such as healthcare, finance and retirement, support systems, housing and more. The study was commissioned bySAGE and led by Harris Poll.

Here are five things this new study reveals about LGBT older people’s experiences with aging.

1. LGBT older people are concerned about their financial futures and feeling that they need to work much further into later life.  Moreover, many LGBT older people rely largely on their own knowledge and education for retirement planning.

According to this new study, 42 percent of LGBT older people are very or extremely concerned that they will outlive the money they have saved for retirement, as compared to 25 percent of non-LGBT people; and half of all single LGBT older believe they will need to work well beyond retirement age. These findings speak to the importance of public policies that protect and support employment among LGBT people, as well as the critical role that financial planning has on one’s retirement outlook (as two solutions). Additionally, single LGBT people have different needs than partnered LGBT people that merit specific attention (among other characteristics explored in this study).

2. LGBT older people report fearing that if their sexual orientations and gender identities become known by healthcare or long-term care providers, as two examples, they will experience judgment, discrimination and inferior care.

Out and Visible notes that 43 percent of single LGBT older people and 40 percent of LGBT older people age 60 and older say their healthcare providers don't know about their sexual orientations. Two-thirds (65 percent) of transgender older adults fear that they will experience limited access to healthcare as they age. Prior research has documented significant health disparities among LGBT older people, spurred by a combination of poor healthcare access and the stressors of stigma and discrimination. In contrast, candid communication between LGBT people and their providers could play a role in improving their quality of care and ultimately, their overall health and well-being.

3. The support networks of LGBT older people are shrinking, and the housing outlook for many LGBT older people isn't optimistic either.

This new study reveals that 40 percent of LGBT older people report that their support networks have become smaller over time, as compared to 27 percent of non-LGBT people. Additionally, one in eight (13%) LGBT people and one in four (25%) transgender people say they have been discriminated against when searching for housing on the basis of their sexual orientations and gender identities, respectively. Secure housing and a supportive network of friends are essential to all people as they age, especially in preventing poverty and social isolation—yet this study shows that LGBT people might be compromised in this regard.

4. LGBT people are diverse and not a monolith—and this study reveals distinct differences that are relevant to providers, government and the broader private sector.

Two notable examples from this study. According to this study, African American LGBT older people are three times as likely as White or Hispanic LGBT older people to say that people from their churches or faith are part of their support systems. Moreover, transgender older people tend to be more worried about being a burden to their loved ones (48% vs. 32%), and knowing where they will live as they grow older (42% vs. 27%) than their cisgender (non-transgender) peers. The study shows additional differences across income, age, relationship status and more.

5. LGBT older people aspire to take on many of the same activities as their non-LGBT peers—yet this study shows that LGBT people are more likely to want to serve as mentors and many fear what might transpire with these options if their sexual orientations and gender identities become known.

According to the study, LGBT and non-LGBT older people cite similar interests for their retirement years: taking part in leisure activities, travel, volunteering, starting a hobby, working part-time and joining social groups. However, key differences also emerged. According to the study, LGBT older people are twice as likely as non-LGBT older people to envision themselves mentoring others (14% vs. 7%). Also, one in four (27%) LGBT older people and one in three (33%) transgender older people feels that work or volunteer activities will not be open to him/her if others know about his/her sexual orientation and gender identity, respectively. 

This study builds on a growing body of research over the last few years that has increasingly, though insufficiently, studied aging concerns among LGBT older people.The report also offers a host of recommendations for leaders in the public and private sectors, most of which are largely centered on the importance of becoming more responsive to the diversity of LGBT people as they age. We’re all aging, regardless of where we fall on the age spectrum, and we deserve to age into systems that enrich our lives, not hinder them.  In this sense, we can all play a role in building a more equitable society.

September 18, 2014

HIV, Aging and LGBT people: A Metamorphosis

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On April 3, 2008, my longtime friend Don (last name withheld) tested positive for HIV, the same day as his mother’s 56th birthday. He remembers the day vividly. “I had given blood to my doctor and a couple weeks later, I still hadn’t received a call. I called my doctor’s office and they said, ‘There’s an anomaly with your blood.’ I immediately freaked out and thought, ‘God, this is it.'” Don took the last appointment of the day and a few hours later received his diagnosis, along with a few referrals. He went home “to pull myself together, call my mom and wish her a happy birthday.” He wouldn’t share his HIV status with his mother for several years.

“It stopped me dead in my tracks,” he says of that day. “And even though having an HIV diagnosis isn’t the same as it was 15 or 20 years ago, I immediately saw the end. I had dreams where I would see this road that said: ‘dead end.'”

At 42, Don represents a notable demographic segment of the U.S. population living with HIV/AIDS. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),the highest rates of HIV prevalence, by age group, are among people ages 45-49 and ages 40-45—20% and 16%, respectively. As these people in their 40s and their older peers age, spurred in large part by medical advances, people age 50 and older will make up roughly 70 percent of Americans with HIV by the year 2020.

Yet aging with HIV can be especially difficult. Older adults with HIV report high levels of isolation, yet few community spaces embrace their full identities as older people, people with HIV and, in most cases, given the epidemic’s prevalence, LGBT and people of color. Additionally, medical research has found multiple health concerns related to aging with HIV—and the psychological dimensions of living with HIV, or a new diagnosis, can spur its own storms. Without a large-scale, dedicated response, the “younger” end of this older adult spectrum, including Don, will join their older peers over the next decade in entering an aging system unprepared to meet their unique needs, despite their overwhelming numbers.

Continue reading "HIV, Aging and LGBT people: A Metamorphosis" »

September 8, 2014

Successful Aging: Preparing for a Happier, Healthier Older Adulthood

When you think of getting older, what comes to mind? Possibilities, new adventures, a second or third chance to pursue a lifelong dream? Or is it anxiety, anticipation, hope, fear—or a mix of these emotions? The subject of aging can stir up different feelings for all of us, but one thing’s for sure: we all want to remain healthy, happy and independent as long as possible. With this in mind, SAGE is thrilled to announce today’s launch of Successful Aging, a new initiative to support LGBT people age 45 and older in shaping their legacies—defined by how we live and what we give back to our communities.

 

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Through in-person convenings, educational seminars and a library of online lessons, Successful Aging brings together people to connect the dots between the choices they make early on in life with their life and career aspirations as they age across the lifespan. Our vision is to ensure that every one of us ages successfully—financially secure, surrounded by loving and supportive friendships and family, and treated with fairness and respect in all aspects of our lives. We’ve released the first of our online lessons today—we hope you’ll take a look and share your thoughts in the comments section, or via Facebook.

The first of our in-person gatherings will be held in Washington, DC this November and in South Florida in February 2015. We’ll be scheduling events in New York City and Los Angeles soon as well. To learn more, contact SAGE’s Director of Legacy Planning, Jerry Chasen.

Successful Aging aims to create community and to open up a space where we, as LGBT people, can connect and learn about the choices we can make to enhance our retirement years. We hope you’ll join the conversation!

June 20, 2014

Policy Update: FMLA Benefits Extended to Same Sex Spouses

Family illness can cause tremendous stress for caretakers, both physically and emotionally. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 addresses this issue directly by entitling eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.

Millions of Americans have benefited from these provisions, but for many LGBT workers these benefits have historically been inaccessible as the government has not recognized their relationships. This challenge is exacerbated for older LGBT adults, who face striking health disparities: increased risk for certain cancers, a greater likelihood of delaying medical care, and higher rates of chronic mental and physical health conditions, including HIV/AIDS.

Given these historic challenges, today’s announcement by the U.S. Secretary of Labor marks a tremendous victory for LGBT older adults.

The announcement from Secretary Thomas E. Perez proposes a rule “extending the protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act to all eligible employees in legal same-sex marriages regardless of where they live.”

This means that same sex spouses married in any state would have access to the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts—regardless of where they live. So a couple married in Massachusetts but living in a state which does not recognize their marriage would still be covered by the protections provided by the FMLA. 

According to today's statement from the Department of Labor:

Secretary Perez is proposing this rule in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, in which the court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act provision that interpreted “marriage” and “spouse” to be limited to opposite-sex marriage for the purposes of federal law.

The basic promise of the FMLA is that no one should have to choose between succeeding at work and being a loving family caregiver,” said Secretary Perez. “Under the proposed revisions, the FMLA will be applied to all families equally, enabling individuals in same-sex marriages to fully exercise their rights and fulfill their responsibilities to their families.

The extension of these benefits to same sex spouses will make a significant difference in the health and well-being of LGBT older adults across the United States—regardless of where they live.

To read the full text of the announcement, visit the Department of Labor’s web site online here

-- Posted by Kira Garcia

April 23, 2014

10 Key Points to Know About Health Disparities among Asian American and Pacific Islander Elders

In recognition of National Minority Health Month, the Diverse Elders Coalition is featuring stories relevant to the health disparities and health issues affecting diverse older adults during April. The following post was written by Karen Blacher of the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) and originally featured on the Diverse Elders Coalition blog.

April is National Minority Health Month. It is a great time to raise awareness of the health disparities that affect racial and ethnic minorities.

In the spirit of raising awareness, here are 10 important things you should know about health disparities among Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) elders including some helpful resources from the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA):

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  1. Heart disease, cancer, and stroke are the leading causes of death among AAPIs aged 65 years and older. These account for over 50% of all deaths in this age range.

  2. AAPIs are at higher risk for Hepatitis B, which can lead to liver cancer. Approximately 1 in 12 AAPIs are living with chronic Hepatitis B, and thedeath rate from Hepatitis B among AAPIs is 7 times greater than rates among whites.

  3. Despite having lower body weight, Asian Americans are more likely than whites to have diabetes. Of Asian Americans who develop the disease, more than 95% are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

  4. The BMI scale, which is regularly used to determine overweight and obesity, is different for Asian Americans. For Asian Americans a BMI over 24 is the cutoff for overweight, and 27 for obesity; compared to 25 and 30 respectively for the general population.

  5. Mental health is a significant concern in the AAPI older adult population. Numerous studies suggest that Asian American elders have high rates of depression. Additionally, older Asian American women have the highest suicide rate of all women over age 65 in the U.S.

  6. There are health disparities within the AAPI elder population, and some AAPI sub-groups are more at risk for certain diseases and illnesses than others. For example, Japanese and Filipino women havetwice as high a risk of getting breast cancer as Korean and Chinese women.

  7. Health beliefs among AAPI elders can be a barrier to health care. For Asian American elders who adhere more to their traditional cultural beliefs, Western biomedical approaches can be perceived as ‘invasive’ or ‘overly aggressive’.

  8. Another major barrier to health care is limited English proficiency. For many AAPI elders that do not speak English well, tasks such as finding a doctor or even understanding symptoms and medications can be incredibly complicated. About 60% of AAPIs aged 65 and older are limited English proficient.

  9. Due to limited resources, elderly AAPIs are more likely to be uninsured or rely on public insurance. Only 33% of Asian Americans aged 65 years and older have private health insurance compared to 52% of the total U.S. population of the same age range.

  10. NAPCA has resources to help address some of these health disparities among AAPI elders.
    • Our toll-free Asian language Helpline, which operates in Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, and Korean, provides information and assistance on Medicare, Social Security, and other senior benefit programs.
    • The NAPCA Healthy Aging Resource Center is a searchable database of health information, materials, and resources in 15 Asian languages. These resources have been culled from health centers, community organizations, universities, health departments, etc.

Karen Blacher is a Research Associate for the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA). Karen conducts research on programs, policies, and numerous indicators impacting AAPI older adults and drafts reports and data briefs addressing the needs and conditions of the AAPI elderly population. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

March 28, 2014

National LGBT Health Awareness Week

Graph_stetAs National LGBT Health Awareness Week and NY LGBT Health Awareness Month comes to a close, we want our readers to know more about the health issues affecting our older adult population and how getting educated can help! Also, don't forget that open enrollment closes in just a few days! Get covered today! If you need assistance, be sure to check out SAGE's webpage on the Affordable Care Act for LGBT older adults.

While many LGBT older people engage in health behaviors that promote good health, research also shows that many LGBT older people engage disproportionately in behaviors that put them at risk, such as smoking, excessive drinking and non-prescribed drug use. In addition, many LGBT older adults delay care out of fear of discrimination from health providers, which means that illnesses go undetected until crisis hits. And more broadly, a general lack of data collection and research on LGBT elder health issues has left the field without the information they need to develop effective interventions that address LGBT older people's unique health realities. 

Did you know that:

  • According to a 2011 national study on LGBT older adults, high percentages of LGBT older people struggle with health conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol, arthritis, cataracts, asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and more. Nineteen percent of LGBT elders reported having had at least one type of cancer. Read the full report. ▶
  • LGBT elders also deal disproportionately with mental health concerns, which is a primary risk factor for social isolation. According to a 2011 national health study, more than half of the respondents have been told by a doctor that they have depression; 39 percent have seriously thought of suicide; and 53 percent feel isolated from others.
  • Research shows that LGBT elders engage in health behaviors that both promote good health and put them at risk. According to The Aging and Health Report: "The majority of LGBT older adults in the project are sexually active and most engage in moderate exercise, wellness activities, and participate in health screenings. Yet, some report high-risk health behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking and non-prescribed drug use. Especially at high risk are those age 50 – 64. Their rates of smoking, excessive drinking, non-prescribed drug use, and HIV risk behaviors are significantly higher than those age 65 and older." Read our resources on diabetesfalls preventionheart disease and HIV/AIDS.
  • A lack of cultural competence regarding transgender people and their health needs, as well as bias and outright discrimination by providers, create serious barriers. These barriers, together with financial barriers, mean that many transgender older adults often avoid or delay seeking care. In addition, medically necessary care related to gender transition is often arbitrarily excluded from public and private insurance. Inability to access this care can contribute to declining health, and these exclusions are often also used to deny coverage for preventive and other medical care transgender older adults need. Read more on transgender health issues. ▶

 

March 25, 2014

National Diabetes Alert Day

Did you know today is National Diabetes Alert Day? 

Our LGBT older adult population is especially at risk for diabetes, as well as a host of health issues, as tudies have shown they are less likely to access mainstream health care service providers, have health insurance, and seek treatment or care, putting them at greater risk for poorer overall health and developing chronic, but manageable, conditions.

According to the American Diabetes Association, National Diabetes Alert Day is a one-day "wake-up call" asking the American public to take the Diabetes Risk Test to find out if they are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.

The Diabetes Risk Test asks users to answer simple questions about weight, age, family history and other potential risk factors for prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes. Access your risk by taking the test now.

The good news is that if you are at risk for prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes, there are steps you can take to prevent or delay the onset of the disease. Check out our fact sheet (available in English and Spanish), “Ten Things Every LGBT Older Adult Should Know About Diabetes,” for more information.

Also, there are 6 days left to go to sign up for health insurance under the open enrollment period! Need help? Visit SAGE's Health Insurance Action Center online now!

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      Read Ten Things Every LGBT Older Adult Should Know About Diabetes      Leer Diez Cosas Que Todas Las Personas LGBT de Más Edad Deben Saber La Diabetes

 

March 12, 2014

Celebrating Women's History Month

IMG_1123SAGE's strong women's community has led to many women-centric programming throughout the organization. The arrival of Felicia Sobel, LCSW, as our Women's Programming Coordinator in 2011 solidified our committement to providing quality events and programs to reflect the breadth of interests of LBT women. Too often, aging is equated with decline and diminishing strengths. On the contrary, growing older means reaching a life stage where friendships deepen, values intensify, goals (old and new) crystallize, wisdom emerges and interests often flourish.

IMG_1692This month, in honor of Women's History Month, we are highlighting all of our women's programs and events. Feel free to stop by The SAGE Center or SAGE Harlem to take part in one of our many women's groups, or attend one of our upcoming dances or lectures!

Special Events:

SAGE & Henrietta Hudson St. Patrick's Tea Dance
March 16, 2014
3:00 - 9:00 pm at Henrietta Hudson, 438 Hudson Street, NYC
Celebrate and dance the day away at a special St. Paddy's Day Tea Dance at the legendary Henrietta Hudson! $10 at the door and all proceeds go to SAGE!

Celebrate Women's History Month with SAGE
March 21, 2014
7:00 - 8:30 pm at The SAGE Center, 305 7th Avenue, 15th Floor, NYC
Hear published women writers read from their work and join us for a Q & A session.  This stimulating event will feature readings by novelist Kathleen Collins; author-publisher Jan Freeman; playwright Barbara Kahn; writer Jaye McNeil; and poet Chocolate Waters. Contributions appreciated, but not necessary and all are welcome!

The Best Women's Dance in NYC: Spring Edition
May 4, 2014
3:30 - 8:30 pm at Club LQ, 511 Lexington Ave, NYC
The Best Women's Dance in NYC is back in May after a successful winter dance in January! Celebrate with friends, old and new, and join us for our triannual tradition! $20 in advance/$25 at the door - get your tickets here!

Special Programs:

Ask the Docs For Women: Workshop on Women's Health
March 24, 2014
3:00 - 4:30 PM at The SAGE Center, 305 7th Avenue, 15th Floor, NYC
The SAGE Center has partnered with Beth Israel Medical Center to provide a monthly series addressing health concerns that LGBT older adults face.  Join us this month for a workshop specifically geared towards women’s health.

SHE (Strong. Healthy. Energized) Fitness Program
April 2, 2014 - June 18, 2014
2:00 - 3:00 pm at The SAGE Center, 305 7th Avenue, 15th Floor, NYC
SAGE has announced its second offering of the SHE (Strong. Healthy. Energized) FREE fitness program, which is a holistic series of 12 sessions that include exercises, nutritional and cooking information as well as discussions. The goal is to help participants (overweight lesbians and bisexual women over 60) approach fitness and weight issues in a comfortable, fun atmosphere.  RSVP to Felicia: fsobel@sageusa.org or call her at 212-741-2247.

Ongoing Programs/Groups:

Women: Our Evolving Lives with Felicia
Weekly on Tuesdays
6:00 - 7:30 pm at SAGE, 305 7th Avenue, 6th Floor, Conference Room 1, NYC
Women-only discussion group for those who wish to talk in a welcoming and open environment.  Please contact Felicia for more information.

Women's Support Group
Weekly on Wednesdays
3:30 - 5:30 pm at The SAGE Center, 305 7th Avenue, 15th Floor, NYC
A welcoming support group for women who need to need to talk or listen in a comfortable and supportive atmosphere. Experience the empowerment of this peer-led group.

Women's Group: Relationships with Felicia
Weekly on Thursdays
3:30 - 5:30 pm at The SAGE Center, 305 7th Avenue, 15th Floor, NYC
This free group requires pre-registration. Contact Felicia for more information and to register. This women-led group is a safe place to talk about relationships and whatever else is going on in life. 

Trans Women's Group
2nd Thursday of the Month
6:30 - 8:30 pm at The SAGE Center, 305 7th Avenue, 15th Floor, NYC
A recent discussion group faciliated by Jackie and Asia. Open to all transgender women who would like to talk about life and issues in a supportive and welcoming environment.

SAGE Harlem Women's 40+ Support Group
1st Friday of the month
6:00 - 8:00 pm at SAGE Harlem, 2090 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd., Suite 201, NYC
Support Group by and for lesbian and bisexual 40+ women.  Refreshments served and new-comers welcome.  Come meet friends and SAGE staff in a supportive and welcoming atmosphere.

March 6, 2014

LGBT Health Month is Here

1003088Did you know that March is New York's LGBT Health Month (in addition to Women's History Month, of course)?

This year's theme is "Access to Care" -- focusing on increased health services for LGBT New Yorkers, including the options under the Affordable Care Act. Since LGBT older adults deal with significant health disparities across areas related to physical and mental health, including high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS and more, "Access to Care" is even more important for our population.

Throughout the month, we will be highlighting a variety of SAGE programs, fact sheets and reports related to the health and wellbeing of our LGBT older adults. To kick things off, we're including a list of all SAGE programs featured in the NYS LGBT Health Awareness Month Calendar and don't forget our special page for information on the Affordable Care Act.

The programs below are offered at The SAGE Center at 305 Seventh Avenue on the 15th floor and are for LGBT adults age 60 and over. 

  • Dealing with Stress: Saturdays from 3-4:30 - Psychotherapist-led open support group
  • Health as a Memoir: Wednesday, March 12, 3 – 4:30 pm- Workshop from Say Ah! that works with you to construct your  personal health history and thereby better help you maintain your health
  • Ask The Docs – Workshop on Women’s Health: Monday, March 24,  3-4:30 pm – Our monthly series with specialists from Beth Israel, focusing in March month on women’s health issues in honor of Women’s History month
  • S.H.E. (Strong. Healthy. Energized): Wednesday, March 5, 2-3 pm – An informational session our 12 week fitness program for lesbian and bisexual women to be launched in April
  • Max, the Therapy Dog: Mondays  3/3, 3/10, 3/24 & 3/31 at 6:30 pm  
  • Meditation: Tuesdays, 4-4:45 pm – With Dojun
  • Gentle Yoga: Tuesdays, 6:15-7 pm
  • Tai Chi: Wednesdays, 3:30-4:30 – With Doc Woodbine
  • Blood Pressure Clinic: Thursdays, 3:30-4 pm – Get your blood pressure checked with Nurse Mary
  • Movement Workshop: Tuesdays, 3:30-4:30 pm – With Billy
  • Medicare Minute: Wednesday, March 12th at 4:30 – Part D Appeals
  • Ask the Pharmacist: Tuesday, March 18, 4-4:45 pm – Marina, pharmacist from Walgreen’s, talks about foot care
  • MS Support Group: Mondays at 6:30 pm – Drop-in for all ages, facilitated by MS Society

Additionally, our SAGE Harlem location at 2090 Seventh Ave. @ 125th Street, Suite 201 offers:

  • New Beginnings HIV Support Group: Tuesdays, 2-3:30 pm – drop in for MSM’s age 40 and over
  • Sexuality & Spirituality Discussions : Mondays, 3/10 & 3/24, 2:30-4 pm with Program Coordinator Chris Jones
  • Grief Group: Saturdays, 3/3  & 3/15 – Support group for older adults (50+) dealing with grief & loss

The SAGE Center Brooklyn, at 30 Third Avenue in the YWCA, 2nd floor offers:

  • Gentle Yoga: Thursdays, 1-2 pm (except no class 3/20) – With Ria Cooper
February 24, 2014

SHE: Empowering Women Through Health and Fitness

Felicia_sobelFelicia Sobel joined SAGE in June, 2011 as its first Women’s Programming Coordinator.  A licensed clinical social worker, she welcomed the opportunity to embrace the goal of expanding programs and events for women in the lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.  The SAGE SHE (Strong. Healthy. Energized) program developed in conjunction with the Lewin Research Group, is a fitness program that is now in its second run. Read more about the group, co-faciliated by Felicia, below.

When I first learned that the federal Office of Women’s Health was providing funds earmarked for a fitness program just for lesbians and bisexual women, I wondered why these particular groups were being singled out. Then I learned that in fact there is a greater proportion of overweight women in this population than in its heterosexual counterpart.  In view of this finding, I realized this program could create a comfortable atmosphere for lesbian and bisexual participants who may feel reluctant to join a gym or other exercise program and knew it could be beneficial to SAGE members.

In planning meetings with an advisory council, including Lewin staff and several professionals representing various health disciplines, as well as myself, the potential of this offering came to light as a truly innovative, holistic approach to health and fitness and weight problems.  The emphasis would not be on losing pounds, but rather on acquiring habits that would lead to improved fitness and health

Each of the 12 sessions of the first program at The SAGE Center included exercises, led by Ruth Gursky (a personal trainer), a discussion group component, and information on nutrition–including pointers on reading food and drink labels, and cooking.

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Each participant was given a Fitbit—a pedometer and activity tracking device, along with encouragement to keep track of the steps she took each week. All were invited to go on walks, usually on the Highline, after the weekly sessions.  At each session after submitting their weekly step-tracking forms, participants received step goals for the following week.  Raffles were provided based on attendance and submission of the step data.  Midway through the program and at its conclusion, there were substantial monetary rewards.  Other prizes included Trader Joe’s gift cards, fanny packs and SHE tee-shirts. A major ongoing plus was a healthy dose of fun!

There was a concerted effort to obtain participants’ feedback.  Focus groups were held and the comments were largely positive. Some participants enjoyed the general benefits, such as an improved sense of well-being. Others were  quite specific in what parts of the program helped. One reported having a change of heart about the importance of reading food labels in order to understand what she was actually consuming and how it could affect her health. As one woman said, “For me, a crucial feature of the program was the tone in which the material was presented: warm, supportive, non-judgmental and psychologically healthy.”

The first round of the SHE program, which ran from this past October through early February, yielded sufficient success to warrant a spring version. An informational session will be held on March 5 from 2-3PM and the program will begin its 12-week start on April 2 (2-3:30 PM). To RSVP for the March 5 session or to request more information, please email me at fsobel@sageusa.org.