SAGE: Ensuring Dignity and Respect for LGBT Elders

As the leading advocate for LGBT elders, SAGE is more than just an organization. It’s a movement of caring activists dedicated to providing advocacy, services, and support to older members of the LGBT community.
Jun 26, 2018 1:30 PM ET

SAGE: Ensuring dignity and respect for LGBT elders

Viewpoints’ invites guest authors from outside of Wells Fargo to share an important perspective related to their work. Today, we welcome Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE.

SAGE is the nation’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT individuals age 60 and older through advocacy and services.

Since 1978, SAGE has worked tirelessly with and on behalf of LGBT elders, and this year, in conjunction with Pride Month, we are proudly commemorating our 40th anniversary with the launch of a new campaign — 40 Fierce Years — dedicated to highlighting our elders’ cause.

As we look back at the past four decades, we celebrate the many historic milestones that the LGBT community and SAGE have achieved — thanks to the grit and determination of our elder pioneers. The community activists who started SAGE 40 years ago truly could not have imagined the progress we would make.

At the same time, there is so much left to do. We are determined to continue our fight on behalf of LGBT older people, who still suffer from profound discrimination in housing and elder care and often are invisible in the very communities they created.

At SAGE, we operate at the intersection of LGBT and aging. We build welcoming communities and keep our cause in the national conversation to ensure a fulfilling future for all LGBT people.

Expanding LGBT-friendly elder housing

For all older people, finding affordable, welcoming housing can be a challenge — but for many LGBT elders, the search for housing is particularly difficult and, at times, nearly impossible. In addition to health challenges, poverty, and social isolation, older members of the LGBT community often experience discrimination when looking for a place to call home.

The statistics are grim. Research by The Equal Rights Center (PDF) indicates that nearly half of same-sex couples experience some sort of discrimination when seeking senior housing, while one-third of LGBT older Americans are worried about having to hide their LGBT identity in order to find suitable housing.

In addition, LGBT elders are particularly vulnerable to discrimination because many religious organizations provide elder care in this country, and some religious traditions remain hostile to LGBT equality and relationships.

While we’re gradually making progress, the number of elders confronting these problems is drastically on the rise as the LGBT older population rapidly grows. The Equal Rights Center estimates that the number of LGBT seniors in the U.S. will increase from the current 3 million to nearly 7 million by 2030.

To respond to these challenges, SAGE — with the support of organizations like the Wells Fargo Foundation — created the National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative, which works on several fronts, including:

  • Advocating nationally against housing discrimination.
  • Training elder care providers to be culturally understanding and inclusive of LGBT seniors.
  • Educating LGBT elders about their housing rights.
  • Helping communities across the U.S. build more LGBT-friendly housing.
  • Building LGBT-friendly housing in New York City.

This year, SAGE broke ground on the country’s largest LGBT-friendly elder housing developments. These developments are part of a nationwide trend, with LGBT elder housing already up and running in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Minneapolis.

At the end of the day, this is what we all deserve as we get older — the opportunity to live in a community that welcomes and supports us, and to lead lives that are full of opportunity and free of discrimination and disregard. That’s the world SAGE and our supporters are building. We encourage everybody to join our movement!