November 18, 2013

The Unmeasured LGBT Life

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

1robertI spent the summer of 2012 homebound, recovering alone in my 400-square-foot studio apartment in Brooklyn. A serious accident on Memorial Day led to ankle surgery, 12 weeks on crutches and the final stretch of August re-learning to walk. When you live alone and are relatively immobile, the days are epic, and the psyche churns with questions: Would I fully regain my ability to walk? Had I amassed the proper support network of friends at this stage in my adult life? And if I remained in New York City, a city fraught with opportunities yet rife with inequality, how should I plan for my aging as a queer person?

It was fitting, then, that I began working that summer on policy guidance to compel the New York State Department of Health to include LGBT-specific questions in its statewide patient assessment system for specific Medicaid-funded providers—a policy win announced this week. As I interviewed researchers and health leaders from around the country to grasp the implications, and as I schooled myself on the state of LGBT data collection, I found myself growing lonelier by the week. I couldn’t help picturing my later years at the mercy of providers and researchers who are indifferent, or even hostile, to my queer life.

I work daily on the politics that underlie these issues, and I’ve arrived at this proposition: as we age, each of us will reach a moment where we’ll need to ask for support in dealing with the frailty incurred through aging. But if we’re lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), the type of institutional support we receive at that point will rely largely on the questions that have already been asked about us. If we’re denied these data to craft relevant health interventions, we will perish off-screen in droves, measured only by the shallowest of statistics. 

Continue reading "The Unmeasured LGBT Life" »

November 12, 2013

Voting is Open! Choose your favorite SAGE Story

SAGE recently asked LGBT older people to tell us about their experiences with isolation, and/or how they build community in ways both large and small. We got wonderful stories from all across the country. It was tough to choose, but we narrowed it down to four finalists. Here are some excerpts from their stories. Vote for your favorite today! 

Story #1 is a poem from a 56-year-old woman who rode her bike from Seattle to Washington DC; part of the poem says:

My bicycle marked with symbols
my choice, a rainbow flag
a blue square with parallel yellow rectangles
the equality sign of the Human Rights Campaign
I am riding out in rural America
Okay, I'll give you I am a little scared
it's a little daunting to think
I might be the target of hate
but proud of my choices
and this country in which
I can choose whom to love
and wear a giant yellow and blue equals sign
on my back knowing
some people will recognize
I am a lesbian

SAGE Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


Outin2013Story #2 comes from a woman who met the love of her life in 1958—and together, the just came out this year. She says, “…every challenge we faced and succeeded in getting through made our love deeper and stronger. Believe it or not, I would do it all over again—even without any changes. Our love has stood the test of time. Today we have given ourselves permission to enjoy “our time,” and every moment is a precious blessing. We are too old to pretend.”

CAbuddhistThe next story weaves together themes of gratitude, contemplation, environmentalism, and fitness, tied together with community-building. Storyteller #3 says, “Abused and neglected as a child, I hobbled into adulthood. For the past 35 years, engaging in self-nurturing, esteem-building and, paramountly, extreme self-care has been my Brigadoon, my Shangri-La. Seeking to cultivate warm-heartedness, calmness, patience, forgiveness and sensitivity within myself, I have surrounded myself with conscious, awake people who reflect those health-giving values.”

GettyImages_78032771Finally, there comes a story familiar to many: the story of a caregiver doing his best to make sure his partner is happy and comfortable in the final years of his life. Contender #4 writes, “…I'm an amateur at dealing with the end of life. By comparison, we all could probably embrace our amateur status and just say it's nothing unique, that it goes with the territory of living and that when we see the light start to dim in the eyes of the love of our life, our emotions are going to tell us we're bungling the job even when we know we're giving ourselves 100% to the work whether we're good at it or not. I don't have a social life. I don't have family or friends nearby. I just have this guy who still makes my heart flutter and I want to keep the love coming.”

Read the full stories here, and then vote for your favorite story! And remember to share the link with your friends. Each visitor gets one vote, and voting closes on November 22.

 

November 11, 2013

Honoring our LGBT Veterans

SAGE is proud to honor our LGBT veterans of all ages, but particularly want to thank our LGBT older adults as trailblazers in all definitions of the word!

Today, we share two videos of our members. One, Chris Lennon, shares his story of being gay in the Navy and the consequences he faced. The other, George Stewart, shares his thoughts and photos of his time in the military. Please watch, remember and thank a veteran if you haven't!

 

November 8, 2013

SAGE Speaks at Senate Committee Meeting on Aging

Adams_senate
SAGE Executive Director, Michael Adams, sits next to Joe Baker, President of the Medicare Rights Center at the November 6th Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee.


On November 6, several leaders in the aging field met with the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee to discuss programs that are critical to the health and economic security of older Americans. SAGE Executive Director Michael Adams, one of the speakers at this meeting, highlighted the unique needs of LGBT older people and how federal programs can support healthy aging for all elders.

The Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee is dedicated to fostering dialogue between Senate Democrats and leaders from across the nation. Each year, the Steering Committee hosts numerous meetings with advocates, policy experts, and elected officials to discuss key priorities The Steering Committee is chaired by Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) and vice chaired by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). Fifteen senators participated in the November 6 meeting, including Harry Reid (D-NV), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and  Jeff Merkley (D-OR), lead sponsor of ENDA.

To read more about the meeting, visit the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee’s page. Photos from the event can be found here.

November 7, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Edie and Thea

SAGE realized that our LGBT stories are not just rooted in the present, but in our past and our future. With that spirit, we present Throwback Thursdays on the SAGE Blog.

Edie & Thea
Edie in the lap of her beloved, Thea Spyer


 

November 1, 2013

Aging Gracefully with a Little Help from Technology, Senior Centers and Exergamers NYC

This blog post was written by Bonnie Kearney, director of Trustworthy Computing Communications for Accessibility and Aging at Microsoft.  Bonnie has been with Microsoft for more than 18 years and is especially passionate about building awareness for technology that improves the lives of people of all ages and abilities. The post was originally featured on Microsoft's Accessibility Blog here.

When was the last time you felt truly inspired at work? For me it was yesterday, as I watched seniors laugh and play together in the heart of New York City.

I realized the future of aging is not in a rocking chair. It is in the invigorating dance moves of Zumba, the thrill of competition in a boxing ring or a bowling lane, and exercise in a virtual environment, with the help of technology that paves the way for new connections and friendships.

 

Exergamer Teams
Above: Left to Right are the teams from SAGE Center, Selfhelp Senior Center and VISIONS Senior Center


In a new public-private partnership, Microsoft teamed up with New York City’s Department for the Aging (DFTA) andDepartment of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT) to develop Exergamers NYC. This program uses Kinect for Xbox in unexpected ways to promote more active and social lifestyles for New York City seniors. Participants bowl on virtual lanes, compete in boxing matches, swing for the fences in baseball games, and enjoy Zumba dance competitions. Senior centers from all five boroughs can compete against one another on Xbox and then discuss and celebrate their achievements together over Skype. The partnership builds upon the success of a 2010 collaboration between Microsoft and New York City that created the region’s first Virtual Senior Center

 

To witness this first hand, I traveled to New York City for the inaugural Senior Center Kinect for Xbox Bowling Competition between players from Manhattan’s SAGE Center and Queens’ Selfhelp Benjamin Rosenthal Prince Street Senior Center. While the competition was fierce, the camaraderie was genuine, with players in the virtual games cheering, teasing, and clapping.  Across town, seniors at the city’s first center for blind and visually-impaired seniors, VISIONS Selis Manor Senior Center, also enjoyed their own Xbox bowling competition. 

VISIONS serves thousands of people from all five boroughs with a wide range of vision impairments, ranging from those with some vision loss to those who are completely blind. According to center director Nancy Miller, maintaining health and physical fitness can be particularly challenging for low-vision seniors because health conditions that cause vision loss may cause other health complications. But virtual sports, such as Kinect’s bowling and Zumba, offer cardiovascular benefits without risks associated with other forms of exercise; there are no sharp objects, heavy weights to lift, or complex fitness machines to operate. And unlike climbing stairs or walking on a treadmill, exergaming is a social activity. Group activities also can help seniors regain a sense of belonging and reduce social isolation. Seniors use a yoga mat to orient themselves  spatially and listens to audio cues to know when they have the virtual bowling ball in hand using Xbox.

As I connected with seniors before and after the day’s virtual matches, I was happy to be part of it all. I particularly enjoyed hearing seniors tell stories about new-found friendships, health benefits and the thrill of competition. The Exergamers NYC collaboration between DFTA, DoITT and Microsoft has been impactful in the community. Teamwork, partnership and collaboration are all buzzwords we read about in management books and hear in staff meetings. But, this program puts these words into action and transforms lives. I have witnessed it first hand, and it’s inspiring.  

October 30, 2013

Senate Moves on Older Americans Act

FederalHeadToday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee began the process of marking-up (meaning debating, amending, or rewriting) S.1562, the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2013.

As you may know, the Older Americans Act (OAA) was scheduled to be reauthorized in 2011. This historically bi-partisan law, has, however, been trapped in the same partisanship that has gripped all of Washington.  

OAA is the most significant source of funding for programs that serve older Americans, and in 2011, when the reauthorization process began, SAGE and our advocacy partners, including HRC and members of the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, consistently advocated to make it LGBT inclusive. During the reauthorization process, there were some high points for the LGBT community.  In 2012, Senator Michael Bennet (D. CO) introduced the LGBT Elder Americans Act of 2012, a set of amendments to the OAA that would have for the first time made the OAA explicitly LGBT inclusive. Senator Bernie Sanders (I. VT) included Senator Bennet’s LGBT-inclusive amendments in his larger, Democratic bill that he introduced in the last Congress and reintroduced during  Older Americans Month (May 2013). SAGE acknowledges and appreciates Senator Bennet and Senator Sanders’s support for LGBT older adults and the leadership they demonstrated in fighting for inclusion of these amendments throughout the reauthorization process. We'd also like to thank Chairman Tom Harkin (D. IA) and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D. WI) for their continued support of the LGBT amendments.

Continue reading "Senate Moves on Older Americans Act" »

October 29, 2013

LGBT History Month: Rosita's Story

In honor of LGBT History Month, SAGE shares stories from our constituents. Watch them explain their experiences in the past and how it shaped their future.

Rosita Libre de Marulanda, an immigrant from Colombia, South America, is a lesbian widow after 18 years with her partner, mother of three lovely and smart daughters, grandmother to seven grandchildren and one cat.  In this video, she talks about all of these different facets of her life, how they affect her in her later years and the importance of SAGE. 

October 25, 2013

The 2013 SAGE Awards & Gala

On October 21, 2013, SAGE staff, board, supporters and constitutents gathered at Gotham Hall in NYC to celebrate another year of providing services and advocacy to LGBT older adults. We all extend a heartfelt thank you and congratulations to the honorees and supporters of the 18th Annual SAGE Awards & Gala.  With your support, we were able to exceed our fundraising goal of $500,000! Our honorees included the amazing Roberta Kaplan, Jay Lesiger, Chris Kann and Jewish Home Lifecare for all of the work they do on behalf of our LGBT older adult population.

October 24, 2013

LGBT History Month: Love in a Meat Truck

In honor of LGBT History Month, SAGE shares stories from our constituents. Watch them explain their experiences in the past and how it shaped their future.

This week, David Singh, shares his story about finding love in Chelsea—back when gay bars and Grindr were not de riguer.

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