32 posts categorized "Health & Wellness"

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.

 
February 7, 2014

Fighting HIV/AIDS: National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Badge-national-black-hiv-awarenessWhile we honor our heroes and LGBT constituents for Black History Month with a series of events and future online profiles, we must also recognize the impact that HIV/AIDS has on the African American community. Today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and if you don't think that's a big deal, check out the stats. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) fast facts:

  • African Americans are the racial/ethnic group most affected by HIV.
  • The rate of new HIV infection in African Americans is 8 times that of whites based on population size.
  • Gay and bisexual men account for most new infections among African Americans; young gay and bisexual men aged 13 to 24 are the most affected of this group.

SnapshotHIVAIDS

Ten-Things-Every-LGBT-Older-Adult-Should-Know-About-HIV-and-AIDS-1These statistics don't take into account the issues facing LGBT older adults and HIV/AIDS. For example, older adults are often not tested for HIV because of providers' misconceptions that they are no longer sexually active.  Research also shows that by 2015, one in two people with HIV/AIDS will be age 50 and older. Overall, the rates of HIV/AIDS among older adults 50+ have increased more than 61 percent from 2001 to 2007. Interested in learning more? Check out our Ten Things Every LGBT Older Adult Should Know About HIV and AIDS. You can also read about how "HIV/AIDS is Still an Issue for Older Gay Black Men" and words from Helena Bushong: "I am a 60-Year-Old Trans Female Living with HIV."

As part of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we urge people to spread the word and to get tested. To find a testing site near you, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636), visit the National HIV and STD Testing Resources page, or text your ZIP code to KNOW IT (566948). You can also use one of the two FDA-approved home testing kits available in drugstores or online.

January 29, 2014

NYC LGBT seniors compete in virtual bowling tournaments with Microsoft Xbox

This blog post by Daniel Hubbell, was originally featured on the Microsoft Accessibility Blog. Read the original post here.

Barbara Police, 64, loved bowling since she was a kid. After she lost her sight 14 years ago, she was able to continue playing at a specially constructed bowling alley for people with visual impairments.  But several years ago, a shoulder injury made it too painful for her to lift and throw a bowling ball. Now, thanks to the new Exergamers NYC program for seniors, Barbara is back in the game. Along with her partner of 38 years, Pat Sloane, she bowls every week at The SAGE Center in Chelsea.

Exergaming combines technology with exercise, allowing seniors to improve their physical, mental and social well-being by participating in friendly competition and interactive gaming.  The project is made possible by a public-private partnership between Microsoft, NYC Department for the Aging (DFTA), and NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT). Exergaming has taken root in many of DFTA’s Innovative Senior Centers, which operates throughout all the boroughs of New York City. 

A few months ago, the SAGE center was given Microsoft Kinect for Xbox, which relies on motion sensors—no heavy lifting involved. "Virtual bowling is terrific for me," Barbara explains, "because there's no weight! I just have to swing and hope for the best." As a person who is blind, she says virtual bowling opens up a new world to her. She's at less of a disadvantage with video games than physical games, since she's able to recreate the two-dimensional backdrop using her imagination—and the help of Pat, 70, who describes to her what's on the screen. It allows me think in my mind what it must look like," Barbara explains. "My mind is virtual!" She lights up when she talks about the game, and says she'd love to learn to play other kinds of games using the Xbox—like baseball.

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January 8, 2014

A Healthier YOU: Chair Yoga

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. That's why SAGE is dedicated to providing programs and services designed to help and educate our LGBT elders on a variety of fitness, health and wellness issues. Starting this month, we are highlighting a few of our programs held at The SAGE Center. This post introduces "Chair Yoga" from The SAGE Center's instructor, Ria Cooper.

ChairYoga
Photo Credit: Katie Orlinsky for Al Jazeera America

What is Chair Yoga?

“Chair yoga” refers to the form of gentle yoga practiced while sitting in a chair (or while standing and using the chair for support or balance). Traditional yoga poses are modified to be accessible for students in chairs. In a regular 45-minute chair yoga class at SAGE, we focus on the breath and on the body by doing simple poses that allow us to stretch, breathe, reach, twist, lengthen, strengthen, balance, and relax. The relaxation and meditation practices at the end of class can help us to release stress and can give us an opportunity to check in with ourselves and relax.

What Are the Benefits of Practicing Chair Yoga?

Benefits of chair yoga can include but are not limited to: lower stress levels, lower blood pressure, improved balance, increased flexibility, increased bone density, improved cognitive function, chronic back pain relief, improved lung capacity, anxiety relief, lower risk of heart disease, etc...

Who Can Do Chair Yoga?

Everyone and anyone! Chair yoga can be especially useful for and accessible to older adults who may be dealing with physical limitations from injuries or aging-related stresses to the body. The measured pacing of the class allows for easeful transitions from one pose to the next, and there is always time for questions and individual modifications if a particular pose doesn’t feel right. Chair yoga can also be a good introduction to yoga if you’re brand new and are interested but have never tried it.

What Should I Wear?

You should wear loose-fitting clothing that you feel comfortable moving in and that doesn’t restrict your movement. Some people like to take off their socks and shoes; some don’t. It’s entirely up to you.

When Can I Come Practice Chair Yoga at SAGE?

Tuesdays, 6:15-7pm, at the SAGE Center (305 Seventh Avenue, 15th floor, NY NY) and/or Thursdays, 1-1:45pm, at the The SAGE Center Brooklyn at the YWCA (30 Third Avenue, Brooklyn NY).

Who Are You?

I’m a freelance yoga teacher for the nonprofit Compass Yoga, and I teach chair yoga classes for SAGE twice a week.  I travel all over Brooklyn and Manhattan to teach at various senior centers, preschools and yoga studios, and the chair yoga classes at SAGE are my favorite. If you’re interested, you can learn more about me on my website.

August 8, 2013

Can Senior Centers Make Us Healthier?

Catherine_thurstonWe are proud to announce that today's post (our 100th!!!) comes from Catherine Thurston, Senior Director of Programs at SAGE.

When I joined the staff of SAGE in January 2005 and began to meet the people who attended our programs, some themes emerged right away: the LGBT older adults I was meeting were far more likely to be aging alone and far less likely to reach out for help. This double whammy clearly spoke to the need to create safe, affirming spaces for LGBT older adults to come together in community and to ensure there were all types of services in the same place: social, recreational, educational and medical. Only in that way could we ensure that LGBT older adults would have a one-stop shop to take care of their needs, allowing them to age in community, safety and good health.

Easier said than done! After decades of advocacy on the part of hundreds of SAGE constituents over the years, we were finally able to celebrate a victory on March 1, 2012 with the opening of The SAGE Center, the nation’s first full-time senior center specifically focused on LGBT older adults, funded by the New York City Department for the Aging. We had our long-awaited home; now we needed to understand if creating the space would help us reach our desired outcomes.

Art class 2A recent report by the New York Academy of Medicine provides us with some preliminary data that appears to underscore the importance of senior centers for LGBT older adults. “Enhancing Health in New York City Senior Centers” is one of the largest studies to look at improving understanding of opportunities to enhance health promotion, care coordination and preventive care among older adults who attend Innovative Senior Centers (ISCs) in New York City. At the time of the study, The SAGE Center was one of eight ISCs (two more have since opened). Focus groups were held with center participants, staff was interviewed and 50 people from each ISC completed a participant survey. The study was especially significant for The SAGE Center, as it was the first time that the LGBT older adults who use our center were compared to a non-LGBT peer comparison group. The results were seemingly affirming and contradictory: on the one hand, the results of the study reinforce the (limited) literature that speaks to increased social isolation, increased prevalence of chronic conditions and overall poorer health status among LGBT older adults when compared to their non-LGBT peers. On the other hand, when asked questions about the number of times people socialized with their friends, the percentage of daily and weekly socializing was higher among LGBT older adults. How can people be both more isolated, and more social?

The answer lies, it seems, in the senior center. While LGBT older adults often live without family support or adult children, the support they do have comes from networks of friends and peers. As we age, we find those supports in aging programs like the one offered by SAGE. Even more interesting is the fact that the LGBT older adults who attend The SAGE Center report higher rates of accessing regular health care, and better overall health assessments than their non-LGBT peers. This is not reflected in studies of LGBT older adults in the general population, which leads us to the original question: does attending a senior center make you healthier?

While there is no way to definitively answer that without more research, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that people who attend centers are more engaged. Just come by The SAGE Center on any given night for dinner, and you will find a family with a few hundred members eating together, exercising together and creating community together—the very definition of a healthy life.

August 1, 2013

Age-Friendly Communities and LGBT Older Adults: Presentation & Discussion Guide

SagePfizerIn 2013, SAGE and Pfizer cohosted a series of three panel discussions on aging issues and LGBT older adults. The first discussion, available to view now, was on age-friendly communities, and how service providers, policy makers, and advocates can work together to support aging in place, particularly for vulnerable communities such as LGBT older adults. SAGE has put together a guide, designed to encourage group discussion, that includes embedded videos of the panel, discussion questions, and suggested procedures for organizing a viewing.

Please note: the PDF version of the discussion guide, found below, is for preview purposes only. You can download the full PowerPoint presentation and guide with moderator notes here. To view the videos of the panel only, visit SAGE’s YouTube playlist. The next two panel discussions, on the Affordable Care Act and HIV and aging, will be available in late summer and early fall 2013.

June 20, 2013

Act Now to Help Prevent LGBT Older Adults From Aging Back Into the Closet

This post was originally featured on The Huffington Post. Read the original post here.

Claire Pomeroy, M.D., M.B.A., is President of the Lasker Foundation. This post details the importance of helping LGBT older adults age with the dignity and respect they deserve.

DSCF2614Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults are pioneers who bravely pushed open the doors to coming out. It is unconscionable that many of these leaders of social justice are forced to retreat into the closet as they age. The troubling reality is that the U.S. lacks a complete understanding of the LGBT senior community and is particularly unprepared for the needs of LGBT older adults at the intersection of multiple disadvantaged populations, such as LGBT seniors who are people of color, disabled, living with HIV/AIDS, undocumented immigrants or socioeconomically marginalized.

Many LGBT seniors fear that the health-care system is judgmental and have experienced discriminatory care or lack access to culturally competent aging services. To address this crisis, the U.S. must adopt a new perspective that emphasizes health, rather than just health care. All sectors of society must come together with a renewed sense of social responsibility that focuses on social determinants of health -- a holistic view of everyday factors that impact the health, economic and social well-being of LGBT seniors.

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June 13, 2013

Men's Health Week

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SAGE Center Participants Michael and Gregory

Did you know that it’s Men’s Health Week?

The week before Father’s Day is generally given over to thoughts on men’s health, but we believe that health awareness is important all the time! In particular, gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men (MSM) are especially vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Most recently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has created a new ad campaign aimed at Latino LGBT people entitled “Reasons/Razones” to increase HIV testing.

If you haven’t seen a doctor in a while, or haven’t been tested for sexually transmitted diseases, SAGE urges you to do so. If you’re interested in how HIV/AIDS affect LGBT older adults, check out our fact sheet. In addition to our HIV Men’s Support Groups, we also offer a monthly “Ask the Docs” program and have visiting nurse services at The SAGE Center and our SAGE Harlem office. Check out the SAGE Calendar for these and more health events in the future! Stay healthy and stay safe!

May 30, 2013

Hepatitis C: Combating the “Silent Killer”

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month. To raise awareness about this disease, our SAGE Harlem program partners with Project HEALS (the Hepatitis C Education and Liver Screening Program) to conduct educational sessions centered on hepatitis C, and offer on-site rapid testing for all LGBT older adults who are interested. The following is a guest blog post by Korin Parrella, Outreach Worker at Project HEALS.

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Each year in the United States, 15,000 people die from hepatitis C, a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). You can get hepatitis C from coming into contact with blood that is infected with HCV. In the United States today, the most common way to get hepatitis C is through injection drug use.

HEP-MONTHThere are more than 3 million Americans living with HCV, and most don’t know they have it. Hepatitis C doesn’t have many obvious symptoms, but for some people it can cause serious health problems like liver disease, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. When a person is infected with HCV, the virus causes the cells of the liver to start swelling. Over time, all the swelling can lead to scarring. When a person’s liver is very scarred, it cannot filter blood the way the body needs it to. It is at this point that a person may start to feel very sick.

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May 17, 2013

National Nursing Home Week: Caring for LGBT Elders

This is a guest post by Hilary Meyer, Director of the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging.

Did you know? This week (May 12-May 18) is National Nursing Home Week! The theme for this year is team care. At SAGE, we believe it takes a team to deliver culturally competent services to LGBT elders, including those in nursing homes.

For this reason, SAGE’s National Resource Center on LGBT Aging trains thousands of providers across the country on cultural awareness of the particular difficulties that LGBT people face. These certified trainers are then able to provide trainings in their community to policy makers, services providers (including to nursing home staff) and other leaders.

LGBT older adults came of age in a time when there was tremendous discrimination and hostility toward LGBT people.  As a result, many LGBT older adults have concerns about whether they will be treated with dignity and respect in congregate residential settings, such as nursing homes.

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