SAGE Partnerships Benefit LGBT Elders
By Melissa Lowery
For nearly 40 years SAGE (Service and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders) has been providing support and services for LGBT elders. Now they’re teaming up with organizations like AARP and the GLBT National Help Center to create more opportunities for older LGBT people to receive support, build friendships and give back to locally and globally.
“No one should age alone, but for LGBT people, it happens all the time,” said SAGE Chief Engagement Officer Susan Herr. “SAGE prioritizes the needs of our most vulnerable LGBT elders by getting the LGBT community involved, working with key partners, and taking advantage of the possibilities offered by new technologies.”
Another intergenerational opportunity comes in May 2017 with the first ever SAGE Table dining experience. Produced in partnership with AARP, this national program encourages LGBT people and allies to purposefully gather across generations to break bread and have conversations about their shared reality.
“Simply sitting down to a table together gives us a chance to have conversations that many of us have never had before,” Herr said. “As we build connections between LGBT people of all ages, we strengthen our community ties and forge new traditions.”
Comedian and talk show host Whoopi Goldberg, a longtime SAGE supporter described the new program as “not a fundraiser, this is a ‘friendraiser.’”
“SAGE is one of the most important organizations that I am aware of,” Goldberg continued, “and I’m proud to be a part of it. Everybody forgets when they’re younger that getting old is just around the corner. So you have to make sure you’re looking out for those who have come before you, and appreciate what was done. On May 18, we’ll get to know each other.”
The first SAGE Table events will take place across the country on May 18, 2017. People can sign up to learn more at sageusa.org/sagetable.
National LGBT Elder Hotline
On November 1, 2016, SAGE launched the SAGE National LGBT Elder Hotline – 1-888-234-SAGE – to provide resources and support to LGBT people age 50 and older. Offered in partnership with the GLBT National Help Center, the Hotline is staffed by trained LGBT volunteers who are there to listen and help. The Hotline offers information and referrals to local resources, but the vast majority of callers are seeking emotional support.
“About 86% of the calls we’ve received so far are for support of some kind,” said Herr. “It might be for help with coming out, handling a person’s HIV status or simply loneliness.”
The Hotline is part of a strategic plan developed by SAGE to catalyze LGBT communities and make a difference for hundreds of thousands of LGBT older folks in the United States, regardless of location.
“Elders tend to be more isolated,” Herr noted. “Where they live can impact available resources, but we believe that it shouldn’t matter if you live in the big city or not, you should have access to resources and support. The Hotline is about increasing our reach to and support of older adults no matter where they live.”
Currently the Hotline is staffed Monday-Friday from 4:00p.m. – midnight Eastern and Saturday from 12:00-5:00 p.m. Eastern. Support is also provided via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteers are also needed as the Hotline increases capacity. Those interested in volunteering should visit sageusa.org/hotline.
Global Volunteering Opportunities
Through a new partnership with Global Volunteers, in 2017 SAGE will offer trips to Cuba and Vietnam specially organized for LGBT older people who want to work on community-led projects. These “adventures” will include teams made up of LGBT people of all ages, further promoting ties across generations.
These exciting programs provide just a taste of how SAGE works on behalf of LGBT elders. SAGE has also begun efforts to make LGBT communities more age friendly by highlighting accessibility and fiscal challenges elders face. SAGE also advocates for the inclusion of older adults on planning committees for LGBT events such as PRIDE.
“We want to insure that older adults are part of the conversation to advance equal treatment across the country,” Herr said. “Our vision is for an equitable world in which LGBT older people thrive because they are valued and have boundless opportunities.”
More information about the many services and opportunities SAGE provides is available at sageusa.org.