Gray and Gay: This senior center was designed for LGBTQ+ elders

NEW YORK (WABC) — LGBTQ+ people are twice as likely to be single and four times less likely to have children, so becoming “gay and grey” can be a difficult and isolating process for most.

That’s why SAGE, a senior center designed for LGBTQ+ elders, was created in 1978, said Steven Wilkinson, the director of SAGE Centers.

“They really don’t have the support of their families or friends, so we’re here to provide that for them,” he said.

Each New York City borough has a SAGE; the largest, in Midtown. More than 4,000 seniors participate in a wide variety of programs designed to help them feel engaged physically and mentally, experience comradery, and most importantly, be respected for who they are.

“Isolation is a very big issue at all stages of coming out, all stages of being gay and lesbian … some of it is self-isolation … and some of it is isolation that comes for hearing people speak badly about the LGBTQ+ community,” said Sandy Warshaw, a SAGE member.

Warshaw didn’t come out until later in life, and now, at 86, this mother, grandmother, and activist says she’s proud to be “gray and gay.”

She said despite social progress, older LGBTQ+ people have very few role models.

“Being LGBTQ+ is still seen as something that young people do because, in many people’s minds, (LGBTQ+) is about sex … and nobody thinks people over 50 have sex,” she said.

Participants must be over 60. They don’t have to pay a fee, but there is a suggested donation for a hot meal, which is as much about companionship as it is nutrition.

Discrimination for gay seniors certainly still exists, especially in housing and nursing homes, but this is a resilient group.

“We’ve got every right, and you’re not going to make us invisible,” Warsaw said.

This article originally appeared in ABC 7 NY on June 24, 2019.