I look back in awe of 2013 and the dynamic changes that have taken place for members of the LGBT community across the local and national landscape. It’s been a benchmark year – a game-changer, if you will – and I’m grateful for this opportunity to share some of the unique contributions that SAGE has made to better the lives of LGBT people – made possible thanks to your continued generosity and support.
This past June, LGBT people across the country (and around the world) celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor v. U.S. to overturn the ban on federal recognition of same sex marriages in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In the days following the decision, many SAGE constituents said that this was as seminal a moment for LGBT civil rights as the Stonewall Riots 44 years earlier —and that they felt privileged to have witnessed both events. We at SAGE celebrated the Supreme Court victory joyously – certainly on a personal level, as the wonderful Edie Windsor is a longtime SAGE member and former Board member Edie’s victory speaks to the pioneering spirit among SAGE’s elder constituents; their courage during decades of adversity; and a perseverance that has paved the way for opportunity among this and future generations of LGBT people.
During 2013 SAGE took a number of steps forward for LGBT older adults across the country. As you read through a select list of SAGE’s 2013 highlights below, I hope you’ll feel proud of the many positive changes your generosity made possible. Here are just a few of SAGE’s many recent accomplishments.
- We launched SAGE Story, a national digital storytelling program for LGBT older adults with the goal of reducing isolation and making LGBT elders more visible nationwide. SAGE Story provides workshops that teach participants how to tell impactful, personal stories across different media, and then gives LGBT elders the means to get their stories out. The program is less than a year old but is already up and running in six cities across the country. In October alone, we shared LGBT elder stories with 15,000 older Americans at AARP’s annual membership conference!
- The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging reached 1,600 providers in the last year. This vital collective of 14 partner organizations, led by SAGE, provides training, technical assistance and educational resources to aging providers, LGBT organizations and LGBT older adults. Think about what it would be worth to know that when you grow older and are no longer able to take care of yourself at home, there would be a care facility completely accepting and caring of who you are. Our work helps to ensure that future for us all.
- SAGE is playing a leading role in making sure LGBT older adults get the health insurance coverage they need through our officially recognized role as a “Champion of Coverage” under the Affordable Care Act. The fact is that many LGBT older Americans become uninsured long before they hit 65 and become Medicare-eligible. SAGE is determined to help them make their way through the maze of “Obamacare” to get coverage. That’s why we launched an online Health Insurance Action Center for LGBT older people that contain resources, informational links, and much more. And we’re equipping our SAGE affiliates in 26 cities across the country to make sure they can get their LGBT older constituents enrolled for health insurance.
- SAGE Works, SAGE’s work training program for LGBT older people who are out of work, expanded dramatically over the past year and is helping hundreds of LGBT people assess and sharpen their career and employment skills, access training programs, and get job coaching and placement assistance. In addition, we’ve worked with employers across the country to educate and inform them of the benefits of hiring LGBT older workers, and are creating a pipeline of SAGE Works graduates for these employers.
- Last year saw the opening of the SAGE Center, the country’s first full-time innovative LGBT senior center. Since it opened its doors, more than 1,600 people have become registered members of the Center, which speaks to the need it has filled for many LGBT elders in New York City. Now SAGE’s policy advocacy team is pushing for changes in federal policy to make government funding available so that similar programs can be created for LGBT older people in communities across the country. And because many LGBT older people also struggle with issues related to safe and affordable housing, adequate retirement income, or basic fairness under the law for themselves and their families, SAGE's advocacy works to remove these policy barriers through original policy reports, federal advocacy in Washington, DC, and extensive collaborations with some of the country’s most prominent aging organizations.
- In September 2013, we unveiled “The Road Ahead,” a three-year strategic plan to guide the next phase of SAGE’s work. The overarching theme of The Road Ahead is to powerfully expand the impact of SAGE’s work on behalf of LGBT older people during this next chapter. The plan is divided into two pillars – maximizing SAGE’s impact as a model service provider and advocate for LGBT older people, and ensuring that our work rests on the strongest possible organizational foundation. We will focus on deepening SAGE’s federal policy work and expanding SAGE affiliates to achieve far greater national impact for the LGBT aging field; emphasize inclusion of all LGBT older adults; adapt our services to new trends in health and long term care so that they are as strong as possible; and share SAGE’s expertise with aging providers around the country and by providing LGBT older people with the information they need to plan for the future.
As you can see, there’s no shortage of success stories at SAGE this year, and with your help, we have every reason to expect another year of breakthrough achievement at the local, regional, and national levels—and in the lives of LGBT elders across America. On behalf of all of us here at SAGE—staff, volunteers, and constituents—I thank you for your sustained support of this life-changing—and history-making—work. You help us propel our momentum ever forward.
Executive Director, SAGE