Volunteers needed to help those isolating in Tampa Bay’s LGBTQ elderly community

A global organization aims to reach out to elderly LGBTQ people isolated by social distancing.

Social distancing is hard on everyone. But for many elderly LGBTQ people, it could mean total isolation.

SAGE, a world organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ elders, hopes to soften that blow. On April 3, they launched SAGEConnect, a call program designed to rescue LGBTQ people age 50 and older from around-the-clock loneliness.

“SAGEConnect officially launched, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating the crisis of loneliness that LGBT older people face,” said Hilary Meyer, chief innovation and impact officer at SAGE. “This is a lifeline to avoiding isolation and a link to help when needed.”

People wanting to connect are paired with volunteers who initiate telephone calls and schedule a time for those weekly calls.

“We ask that people registering commit to connect at least once a week, for 15 minutes or more, for six weeks,” Meyer said. “From there, they can decide together if they’d like to continue connecting.”

Two SAGE affiliates, SAGE of the Rockies in Denver and SAGE Metro Detroit, have successfully used the program in the past. Coronavirus quickly pushed that test into a national launch.

“With this global crisis, we decided that it was time to implement a solution from the national SAGE office, to reach people across the country,” she said.

The only goal for the program is to help people through this crisis.

“We are hopeful that for some folks, having a friendly connection during this crisis will prove to be a lifesaver,” she said.

SAGE needs volunteers in the Tampa Bay area. Anyone interested in volunteering or in receiving a call should register online at sageusa.org/sageconnect, or call (929) 484-4160.

This article originally appeared in Tampa Bay Times on April 8, 2020.