LGBT Seniors Have National Caregiver Resource Center
June 16, 2010 — By Antoine Craigwell — AlterNet
New York, NY – In a special event celebrating Pride month, more than 150 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) seniors and staff of Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE) gathered on Monday, Jun 14 at SAGE's office for the launching of the National Caregiver Resource Center and ad campaign.
The National Caregiver Resource Center, a first in the country catering specifically to LGBT seniors, was made possible by a collaborative $900,000 grant over three years to 10 partner agencies around the country from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department for the Aging. These partner agencies are charged with providing training on LGBT issues, access to mainstream services and providers for seniors, and critically important educational tools and information for elderly LGBT people, including financial management, case and social worker assistance, and enabling access to addressing health and disability concerns.
The press release announcing the ad campaign, with the tag line/slogan "the Caregiver's caregiver" in English and Spanish, "Caregivers don't have to do it alone. The support, help and hope they need is at SAGECAP—a new program of SAGE" and "Cuidad ores ya no es necesario hacerlo solos. El apoyo, ayuda y esperanza que ellos necesitan esta en SAGECAP—el nuevo programa de SAGE" said, "SAGECAP offers a number of services to caregivers and care recipients throughout New York, including individual counseling, a caregivers support group, benefits and entitlement assistance, recommendations for safe and LGBT-affirming long-term care options and identifying appropriate home-based care services. The program also provides a safe space for LGBT caregivers to share ideas and suggestions and to receive support." SAGECAP Ad Campaign
"Our SAGECAP program provides an LGBT-affirming space where people who are going through the difficult time of providing care for a loved one can receive essential information and support," said Michael Adams, executive director of SAGE. "SAGE's city-wide ad campaign is meant to remind LGBT caregivers that they are not alone and that our SAGECAP services are there to help."
The press release added that the campaign's ads would run as posters throughout the city's Metropolitan Transit Authority subway and bus system from Jun 14 to Jul 26, as well as in print and online magazines, blogs, and in media that target the LGBT community throughout New York City. Animated versions of the ads will also run online. In all, it is expected that the campaign will be viewed more than 33 million times during the seven-week campaign period. Later this year, in preparation for November's Caregiver Appreciation Month, SAGE will broaden the campaign to educate LGBT communities nationwide about the types of support caregivers could receive.
At the combined launch Adams said, "The National Resource Center is a huge breakthrough for the LGBT community because this is the first time that the federal government is providing support, federal benefits, for LGBT people across the country through service providers. The public education campaign, on the other hand, is an example of the kind of educational work the Resource Center would do. The ad campaign is to help caregivers for LGBT elders become aware of SAGE's caregiver support program."
Although SAGE caters to LGBT elders 50 years and over, John "Marty" Young, an African-American who is two years shy of that goal, is already familiarizing himself with the organization's services.
"I think it's a great opportunity to meet the needs and to recognize that there exists a number of LGBT seniors who are invisible. This center acknowledges their existence and importance, especially with so much emphasis on youth these days," said Young.
Lee Evans, 63-year old, who is a bisexual retired Broadway actor and singer, says that since he came out to his daughter and had to deal with different health issues including prostate cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, that SAGE has been able to help older LGBT people who are single.
"SAGE has given me an opportunity to come out of the closet and be comfortable," he said
Adams said that seniors in the LGBT community are living in unprecedented times, especially for caregivers, healthcare facilities, and communities that serve them.
"Our country is witnessing the first generation in history to live and age more openly as LGBT people. Going into the closet to access vital services isn't an option," said Adams.
Another senior, Shelia Bligen, 59, who is retired from Verizon, says that although she has been with SAGE for two years, she always knew about the organization, from their women's dances.
"SAGE is an outlet where I can give back. I volunteer and make use of the available programs, including computer services and opportunities to attend the opera. To me the resource center means I could refer friends and others to SAGE because a lot of people don't know of the organization," said Bligen.
Cathy Renna, of Renna Communications, the firm handling public relations for SAGE, said, "This campaign follows last year's highly successful and award-winning LGBT older adult visibility campaign with the message that "there's no expiration date on a full and active life."
Renna added that the world famous photographer Janette Beckman, who has shot photos of rock stars and hip-hop artists for Rolling Stone magazine for the past two decades, has turned her lens on SAGE members, donors, staff and volunteers.
"Janette and Double Platinum, the award-winning gay and lesbian focused marketing agency owned by Arthur Korant and Stephanie Blackwood, have put a positive and hopeful face on LGBT aging," said Renna.
While the Resource Center is official, SAGE is in the process of identifying appropriate staff, including a director, and later this year, plans to launch a Website which would provide vital information to LGBT elderly audiences to ensure that seniors are supported all over the country.
Michael Adams said that seniors in the LGBT community are living in unprecedented times, especially for caregivers, healthcare facilities, and communities that serve them. "Our country is witnessing the first generation in history to live and age more openly as LGBT people. Going into the closet to access vital services isn't an option," said Adams.