April 8, 2016

Accelerating Health Equity for Diverse Elders

This post originally appeared on Diverse Elders Coalition on April 4th, 2016. Read the original post here.

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April is National Minority Health Month! We join the US Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health in recognizing the health disparities that continue to affect diverse communities across the United States. Ample research suggests that communities of color in the United States face barriers to health and greater health disparities when compared to white communities, including availability and affordability healthy food, incidence of diabetes, rates of HIV infection, access to healthcare, and the use and abuse of tobacco and alcohol, just to name a few.

The stress of our nation’s history of racism and exclusion also impacts our communities’ health. Studies examining the role of social and biological stress on health suggests a link between socioeconomic status and ethnic disparities in stress and health. Our diverse elders have survived Jim Crow, redlining, WWII internment, unfair and unsafe working conditions, inadequate healthcare, deportation, and incarceration, among others, which has no doubt impacted their health and wellbeing in their later years.

Discrimination and health disparities impact our LGBT elders, too. As detailed in a recent article in The Advocate, nearly one-quarter of adults who are LGBT say that they have been unfairly stopped, searched, questioned, physically threatened or abused by the police, and a third say they have been unfairly not hired for a job. Other forms of discrimination reported by LGBT respondents include day-to-day discrimination such as being threatened or harassed, receiving poorer service than others, or being treated with less courtesy or respect.

All of this is to say that the Diverse Elders Coalition values the health of our communities and is working at the grassroots and at the policymaker levels to eliminate the disparities that our elders of color, American Indian/Alaska Native elders, and LGBT elders fight against every day. The work of the Diverse Elders Coalition and our five member groups around HIV and aging, healthcare reform, immigration and digital storytelling all support the health and wellbeing of our communities. We want all of our elders – and future generations of elders – to live long, happy, healthy lives.

Join the HHS Office of Minority Health for an online Health Equity forum, this Thursday, April 7th at 1:30pm EDT to learn more about the health disparities facing our communities, and stay tuned to our blog, Facebook, and Twitter for more ways we’re commemorating National Minority Health Month.

Jenna McDavid is the communications and logistics associate at Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC). 

April 7, 2016

Financial Literacy: Tips and Tricks for LGBT Elders

By Vera Lukacs

It’s critical for LGBT older adults to become more financially literate as they age. According to the SAGE report, Out and Visible: The Experiences and Attitudes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Older Adults, Ages 45-75, nearly half of all LGBT older people fear they will outlive the money they save for retirement, as compared to a quarter of non-LGBT older people; 1 in 2 single LGBT older people believe they will have to work well beyond retirement age, as compared to less than a third of single non-lgbt older people; and more than half of the LGBT older adult population is concerned about not having enough money to survive retirement.

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From Out and Visible: The Experiences and Attitudes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Older Adults, Ages 45-75


April is Financial Literacy Month. What do you need to know as an LGBT older adult? Have you planned your estate? How do you find an LGBT-friendly lawyer or financial planner? Here are some tips and tricks for your financial planning this month and long term:  

Find your LGBT-friendly financial planner
Afraid of discrimination? Fear no more. There is an abundance of resources on finding an LGBT-friendly financial planner and/or lawyer. The Wells Fargo guide, Tailored Investment Planning Solutions for Same-Sex Couples and Domestic Partners, will help you find a financial planner with ease. Are you an LGBT-friendly financial planner? Join the Gay Financial Planner list here.

How do you plan your estate? 
Create a will. It can be tough to talk about, but it’s one of the most important steps you should take as an older adult. Did you know that an estimated two-thirds of people die without a will? Check out What Every LGBT Older Adult Needs to Know About Wills from the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging.

Talk to your partner(s), family and friends
Sure, it’s hard to talk finances, but keeping the communication clear between you and your loved ones will make things easier. These Must Read Tax Tips for LGBT Couples explain the difficulties of talking about finances with a partner. “Schedule some time with your significant other to sit down uninterrupted and share a nice bottle of wine. Discuss your financial goals and where you are financially, both as individuals and as a couple. Put this in writing.”

Vera Lukacs is a digital media assistant at SAGE. April is Financial Literacy Month. What do you need to know as an LGBT older adult? Follow the SAGE blog this month for more!

April 4, 2016

SAGEMatters Spring 2016: Our Stories, Our Voices

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SAGEMatters Spring 2016: Our Stories, Our Voices

SAGE is proud to lead the charge on behalf of LGBT older people, whose stories are most powerful when LGBT elders themselves tell them. In this issue you'll hear an extraordinary array of voices.

The cover features Bishop Tonyia Rawls—a religious leader whose Charlotte congregation is part of Unity Fellowship Church, which was born from a need to minister primarily to LGBT African Americans during the height of the AIDS crisis. For the third year in a row, Bishop Rawls enlisted members of Charlotte's faith community to participate in the SAGE storytelling Summit, which harnesses the power of stories to advance anti-discrimination efforts in North Carolina. In this issue, Bishop Rawls talks about working with clergy in North Carolina and leveraging those relationships to build a system of mutual respect and hope for LGBT communities.

You'll also hear from several participants in SAGEWorks, a national employment initiative for LGBT people 40 and above. This initiative ignites the potential within members of our community who have fallen out of the workforce late in their careers and hare having a hard time getting back in.

We're particularly proud to share a conversation with Ruth Berman and Connie Kurtz, who have transformed countless lives through their work as activists, certified counselors, and founders of chapters of Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) in Florida and New York. Ruth and Connie were recently honored with the SAGE Pioneer Award, which recognizes LGBT older people who pave the way for LGBT equality.

And lastly, we're honored to share an essay by Tim Maher, who reflects on his late mother's final days on Fire Island, the LGBT summer community where his family eventually came to accept him as a gay man. SAGE's cart service made Fire Island accessible to his mother during that time, just as it does for other older people, including those who need assistance moving around the car-free community. Tim's essay is the first in a series of stories about caregiving within our communities.

I hope you're as moved and inspired by these voices as I am. They are the sources of strength, resilience and warmth that enrich our communities, year after year.

 

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Michael Adams
Chief Executive Officer

SAGEMatters is the triannual magazine of Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE). View and download the Spring 2016 issue here.

April 1, 2016

Serena Worthington on the LGBT Aging Community Crisis

This post originally appeared on the Erickson Resource Group blog on March 28, 2016. Read the original post here.

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We are all aging. The demographics are shifting and resources are lacking to support our seniors. For the LGBT community, resources, and particularly housing needs are virtually non-existent. Due to stigma, discrimination, family dynamics and other issues, this aging community is at risk of having limited support. This week’s guest on Caregivers’ Circle, Serena Worthington from SAGE discusses the complexity of this issue and the efforts being made to rectify it. Listen here.

March 31, 2016

LGBT and Faith-based Communities: On the Reconciliation of Sexuality and Spirituality

To commemorate Women’s History Month, SAGE highlights the inspiring work of Reverend Elder Darlene Garner and how faith intersects with her LGBT activism.

By Vera Lukacs

Darlene Garner is the first African-American woman to be elected on the Board of Elders at Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) and a fierce LGBT advocate. She is a co-founder of the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays (NCBLG), leads the biannual Conference for People of African Descent (PAD) and was President of the Board of Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry. Along with two other LGBT couples, Reverend Elder Garner and her partner Candy Holmes were the first LGBT people to be married in Washington, D.C. in 2010 after marriage equality was recognized there.

Garner believes in the intersectionality of faith and LGBT issues, and MCC is a haven for spiritual LGBT folks. MCC is an inclusive sanctuary for the LGBT community, the international denomination welcomes people of all gender identities, sexualities, and faith with open arms. In Elder Garner’s words,

“MCC’s pioneering work on the reconciliation of sexuality and spirituality and our theology on the sacredness of the human body are reflected throughout all of our justice efforts and serve to advance women’s issues globally. Whether the issue is women in leadership; a woman’s right to choose whether to give birth, retain custody, or adopt a child; a woman’s right to access to education, water, or health care; a woman’s right to choose whether, when, and who to marry; or a woman’s need for a safe place to be herself, MCC has taken a stand and the people of MCC around the world have been and continue to be actively involved.”

In this powerful speech, Rev. Elder Darlene touches on the intersectionality between the LGBT and the faith-based communities: 

 

Elder Garner, SAGE thanks you for your extraordinary work in the LGBT and faith-based communities!

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.

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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 25, 2016

Kim Watson: A Fearless Advocate for the Trans Community

By Vera Lukacs

Award-winning trans advocate Kim Watson’s inspirational work paves way for the LGBTQ community.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, SAGE would like to bring attention to a particularly inspiring woman. Kim Watson is the co-founder of Community Kinship Life (CKLife), an organization that provides services, resources and support to transgender people. Kim is a mentor and mother figure to young trans people, bringing  them together to live and learn in a safe and stimulating space. Kim also works with Black Transmen Inc., and is currently writing Healing Our Women for POC Trans Women.

Kim watsonKim, herself a woman of transgender experience, advocates for many other transgender people. When asked about the importance of allies in the transgender community, she says, “Allies are folks who are committed to support their SOFFA (significant other family friends and allies) without any deception. The LGBTQ community still has hiccups while trying to support the trans* community, but with dedication they will get better, I believe, in time.”

In a recent GLAAD blog post for #LGBTQFamilies Day, Kim Watson shares on being a mother, wife and mentor of trans experience: “I am also the mother figure/mentor of chosen kids. I have nine boys and one girl who are my chosen children. Now, being a mother figure to these kids has stabilized my patience, my commitment, my passion and energy to keep loving all of them unconditionally. I cannot always see them, but every day I speak to most of them, or they text me.”

Kim is the recipient of many awards, including the Christine Jorgenson Award, the Black Trans Ally Award, and the Certificate of Merit from Senator Jose Serrano (NY).

Kim says, as an aging advocate, it’s important to “stay stress free and practice self care”. Kim, we thank you for your hard work and advocacy for the trans community!

March 23, 2016

Dreaming At Any Age

by Marsha Aizumi. This article originally appeared in the Pacific Citizen.

Almost five years ago I retired from a 13-year job that I loved. It was time. And it was also frightening. Work gave me purpose and a place to belong. Would I find that same fulfillment now as a retired person? I had decided to write a book about my journey with my transgender son and also I seemed to be moving in the direction of becoming something I knew nothing about: an LGBTQ activist. Sometimes you just have to follow your heart and take a leap of faith. So that is what I did.

During these past five years, I have learned that my greatest power lies in being myself. I have also learned that age puts no limitations on what you can do. Everything is a choice. For the first part of my life, I really didn’t know what being myself was. I was a perfectionist, because I never wanted to be wrong. And if I was perfect, nobody would criticize me. But often being perfect and expecting perfection from others gave neither of us room to grow and make mistakes. And it also put a tremendous amount of pressure on me. I didn’t risk taking on anything where I could fail and so I never took on things that could expand who I was as a person.

I was often afraid to speak out for fear of offending others and having them judge me as a terrible employee, mother or human being. At work, my bosses would encourage me to share my thoughts and not be so invisible. I tried to be visible, but at the first hint of disapproval I would quietly move into invisibility once again. Not being seen seemed safer.

And then Aiden, my son, came out as transgender and my world was turned upside down. Something inside of me changed. I could no longer think about myself; I needed to think about him. No longer could I go through life casually seeing how every day would unfold for me. No, I had to make each day count. I had to courageously step out, most of the time being scared of saying or doing the wrong thing, but doing it anyway. Brene Brown, author of #1 New York Times bestseller Daring Greatly says, “You can be brave and scared at the same time.” Most of the time, you didn’t have to tell me I was scared. I felt that inside. But brave was a whole new concept. If I was scared and I did it anyway, that was brave?

In the beginning I made a lot of mistakes. I said the wrong thing, but I learned the power of saying “I’m sorry.” I did wrong things and learned the power of asking, “How can I do it better next time?” Sometimes people did or said hurtful things to me. And I learned the power of saying, “I know you didn’t mean to hurt me, but when you said that about my son, my heart felt bad.” In most cases, I was forgiven, or given better ways to handle things or was apologized to. In all cases, I walked away understanding more, feeling prouder of myself or realizing how I could do things better in the future. The hard part of apologizing, asking how I could do better or sharing my feelings was that most of the time, I felt like a lobster without a shell. Later I found out that was how you feel when you are being vulnerable.

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Marsha speaking at the HRC Time to Thrive Conference in February 2016. Photo by Steph Grant Photography.

 

But being vulnerable has helped me grow and provided me gifts that I never thought would come into my life as a retiree. Authentically sharing my journey of transitioning with my transgender son, I have met so many beautiful people all over the country. And taking on challenges like speaking to larger and larger crowds, even though I was scared, has given me a purpose greater than I thought I would have. Last month, I spoke in Chicago at a conference called Creating Change. At the end of the workshop, I stopped a young lady who left our presentation crying. “Are you okay?” I asked as she walked past me. “Yes,” she replied, “I am walking out with hope.” Two weeks later I spoke to 800 educators and professionals in Dallas. I was scared going on stage, but I just kept telling myself just keep your heart open and be yourself. At the end, they gave me a standing ovation.

I think what I want to share with you today is that you are NEVER too old to go out and make a difference. Forget your age… find your passion! Go out and share who you authentically are. If you are not sure what your life can look like if you do this, rent a movie called “The Intern” with Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway. Or google the name Virginia McLaurin, a 106-year-old lady who started a social media campaign at age 104 to meet President Obama and dreamed of being invited to the White House. The video of their meeting has gone viral and inspired so many! We are never too old to bring value to the lives of others. And we are never too old to dream.

Marsha Aizumi is the author of “Two Spirits, One Heart” and is on the PFLAG National Board of Directors. Learn more about her at www.marshaaizumi.com.
March 21, 2016

Suicide and LGBTQ/SGL Older Adults

By Dr. Imani Woody

This post originally appeared on Diverse Elders Coalition on March 20, 2016. Read the original post here.

During Black History Month, Mary’s House for Older Adults, SAGE Metro DC, and AARP DC held a LGBTQ/SGL (same gender-loving) State of the Union. One of the issues brought to the forefront was the increase of suicides among LGBTQ elders in nursing homes and other facilities. Surprised?

While we’re all sort of aware that suicide is a leading cause of death for youth aged 10 to 24, we rarely think of it as a leading cause for elders. However, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) has a startling statistic: people 45-64 years old had the highest suicide rate in 2013, and elders 85 years old and older had the second highest. The NCOA suggests these stats may be higher because elder suicide may be under-reported by 40% or more and they include the double suicides involving spouses or partners that occur most frequently among older people.

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Photo courtesy of AARP DC.

 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 10,189 people 60 years old and older died from suicide in 2013, and those elders 85 years old or older committed suicide at a rate four times higher than the nation’s average.

We can work to change these statistics.

Bette Davis said “Old age ain’t for sissies,” and she wasn’t talking about LGBTQ/SGL folks necessarily. However, being old and LGBTQ/SGL is HARD. It is so hard that the research is showing that a large majority of older gay folks are going back into the closet. Anecdotally, we are finding their numbers climbing in the suicide rates. One expert stated that a person “thinking about suicide may not want to die but is in search of some way to make pain or suffering go away.”

So, what do we know? We know that ageism coupled with homophobia and the maltreatments of racism, classism, sexism, ableism, and heteronormative standards can lead to isolation and depression. We also know that the realities of living alone; not having a partner or spouse; leaving one’s home; and becoming dependent on systems and people can bring about a sense of loss and grief so great that suicide seems the only answer. We can change the environments that cause our elders to run back into the closet for safety or commit suicide.

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Photo courtesy of AARP DC.

Back in the day, nursing homes were called “old folks homes.” The term of art is now “assisted living facility,” but the atmosphere is the same – and nobody wants to be in one. But what if? What if an assisted living facility was truly a place that assisted in one’s quality of life, not set up like a hospital but like one’s home? What if the staff looked less like medical personnel and more like neighbors? What if the caregivers and the patients were educated to work and live in a culturally competent manner, respectful and accepting of race, ethnicity, class, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and there was a zero-tolerance policy for anything less? What if the expectation was to CARE and everyone in the facility felt safe and supported? Far-fetched? I think not.

The keys to changing those statistics mentioned earlier are in our hands. We must transform the nature of an “assisted living” facility to “we care living” facility. The panelists and attendees at the State of the Union had several recommendations for organizations, including:

  • Support policies such as affordable housing, Social Security, and Age-Friendly City
  • Integrate LGBTQ/SGL Older Adult programming with other (culturally appropriate) programming to create opportunities to decrease isolation and depression
  • Create partnerships to share the history of older LGBTQ/SGL older adults
  • Recruit Millennials and others to act as volunteers to visit and engage older adults

It is equally important that we work on an individual level. On an individual level, we can become present in an LGBTQ/SGL older adult’s life. Your presence changes their environment, and supportive environments save lives.

 

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.

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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.