An Organization for LGBT Older People, by LGBT People
Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) was founded in New York City in 1978 by a small group of LGBT activists of all ages who recognized that LGBT people did not have the supports they needed to age in good health and with financial security. Originally known as Senior Action in a Gay Environment, the founders set out to create that network of support, first in New York City and then nationwide.
In its early years—with a small office at St. Luke in the Fields Episcopal Church in Greenwich Village, just 1 to 2 staff members, a committed Board of Directors, and an energetic base of volunteers—SAGE created numerous original programs for LGBT older adults. These programs, which are still in existence today and have been duplicated around the country, include:
- The nation's first friendly visiting program for LGBT older adults
- The nation's first LGBT drop-in center
- The nation's first support group for older adults living with HIV/AIDS
- The nation's first municipally funded caregiver respite program for LGBT elders
A Growing National Network
Over time, it became clear that the number of older people in the U.S. was expanding rapidly, with the number of LGBT older adults expected to double by the year 2030. A robust network of organizations and individuals emerged across the country to address the widespread social isolation, financial insecurity and health care disparities facing LGBT older adults. And this network increasingly turned to SAGE for its pioneering programs and work to improve the lives of LGBT elders. SAGE began to build a nationwide presence, becoming a vital leader on LGBT aging issues. Today, SAGE:
- Has 27 SAGENet affiliates in 20 states and the District of Columbia, providing services, programs and advocacy for LGBT elders in local communities across the country;
- Is the first and only LGBT organization to join the Leadership Council on Aging Organizations, the group of more than 60 prominent national aging advocacy organizations that represents millions of older Americans; and
- Leads (in partnership with the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force), the National LGBT Aging Roundtable, a consortium of 50 organizations from around the country interested in improving the overall quality of life for LGBT older adults.
From the beginning, SAGE recognized that it was not enough to provide programs and services to LGBT older people. In order to create lasting change, we needed to ensure that policymakers—from city halls and state capitols, to Capitol Hill—take into full account the needs of LGBT older adults when creating aging policies. SAGE has partnered with state and local organizations around the country to drive advocacy at the state and federal levels, and solidified partnerships with key federal agencies, such as the Administration on Aging, to transform the systems that support older Americans. And our work has paid off. Some of SAGE's accomplishments include:
- Receiving a historic federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Administration on Aging to seed the creation of the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, the country's first and only training and technical assistance resource center for LGBT aging issues.
- Advocating for inclusion of LGBT older adults in the Older Americans Act, the country's leading vehicle for funding services and supports to older people across the U.S. Recently, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced the LGBT Elder Americans Act of 2012, which includes several SAGE-recommended amendments to ensure that the OAA supports LGBT older people.
- Opening the nation's first full-time, municipally funded LGBT senior center, The SAGE Center, in New York City in 2012. In 2014, we opened sites in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island and expanded our Harlem location.
- Establishing the Diverse Elders Coalition with six other leading national organizations that address the needs of elders of color and LGBT elders—who together will soon be the majority of older Americans
- Becoming the first official LGBT delegate to the White House Conference on Aging in 2005—and in 2012, playing a vital role in the first ever White House LGBT Conference on Aging.
For SAGE, this is just the beginning of our story. We know change takes time, coordination and resources—and the flexibility to adapt to shifting trends and new political leadership. With our long history of creating innovative programs, developing strategic national partnerships and providing training on LGBT aging issues to this country's aging network, SAGE is creating the systemic changes that will ensure that LGBT older adults, now and in future, will be able to age with dignity and respect.
SAGE's work is made possible through the generous support of our donors. Thank you!