SAGE: Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders
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William Weinberger

SAGE Board Member

How  did you first hear about SAGE, and what made you want to join SAGE’s Board?

I had heard of SAGE years ago and knew it was a group for LGBT older people, but was not very familiar with its work. I attended an event in New York City honoring Larry Chanen (co-chair of the SAGE National Leadership Council) and met several people from SAGE there, including [Board Co-Chair] David Canter. From there, I went on the website to learn more, and met Michael Adams when he was in Los Angeles.

What I learned from all this is how important SAGE’s work is to the LGBT community. Having parents who were aging—my father has passed away, but my mother is doing reasonably well—and having friends who are dealing with the same issues to varying degrees, aging has recently come to the forefront of my mind. Seeing my parents age, and learning about what LGBT people deal with as they age, such as issues of social isolation, service delivery or HIV, made me want to apply the experience I have gained from serving on boards of other organizations to support SAGE’s work.

In your opinion, what makes SAGE a vital organization in the LGBT community?

SAGE addresses critical issues that are not fully addressed by other organizations. In L.A., there are organizations that provide wonderful and significant services to LGBT elders, such as the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center and Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing. SAGE is a leader on these issues on a national scale, addressing aging more comprehensively than other national organizations or the LGBT community  as a whole. I think it is vital that SAGE be part of the panoply of work needed to address LGBT aging.

You are one of the first board members on SAGE’s Board from outside the New York area. As an L.A. resident, how do you feel SAGE’s national work affects LGBT older adults in your area? And is there a unique perspective you bring to SAGE’s work based on your own community?

I think SAGE’s national advocacy work in Washington DC, both at the bureaucratic and administrative level and with Congress, supports work on elder issues in local communities by helping to ensure that funding through policies like the Older Americans Act, or protections built into programs like Medicaid (MediCal in California), apply to and address LGBT older people’s needs. SAGE’s website and its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging provide essential resources for organizations and people in the L.A. community. It’s important to make these resources accessible for both professionals and family members who work with elders, and LGBT elders themselves. With L.A.’s strong focus on youth-oriented culture, it’s vital to bring aging issues more to the fore.

In terms of a unique perspective, I’ve been involved with several local organizations and community issues for years, and through that involvement have become acquainted with many of the players in this community. Michael [Adams] is interested in working with local organizations, finding synergy between SAGE’s work and their initiatives, instead of duplicating efforts. I hope that I can help SAGE build those relationships with local organizations and provide input on what will work in my community and what won’t work.

Are you an activist in other areas, and if so, how does that work intersect with SAGE?

I’ve been very involved in my synagogue, Congregation Kol Ami, for many years, serving as president of the board and chair of the religious school committee. One of the things a synagogue needs to do is to take care of its members. I know from experiences my friends have had how a religious community can care for people as they age. Through my work with Kol Ami, I’ve developed relationships with other congregations, which can help support SAGE’s work in the community.

I’ve been involved in politics as well, which can help SAGE.  I’ve been president of the Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association of Los Angeles and a cooperating attorney with Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Southern California—lawyers can be helpful! And I’m a parent. I’ve been an activist in my son’s life, probably more than he wishes, but this gives me a perspective and ties to the community that broadens the reach of SAGE.

I’m really honored to be on the board. In the short time I’ve served, I’ve been impressed with the dedication and talent of my fellow board members and the staff and what they bring to these issues.

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