SAGE: Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders
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About SAGE Story
Bring your story to life.

SAGE Story is a national digital storytelling program for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. The purpose of the program is to strengthen the storytelling skills—and draw on the unique life experiences of—LGBT elders to diversify the public narratives on aging, long-term care and LGBT rights. SAGE Story offers skill-building workshops in New York City, maintains an online story booth for digital submissions, and partners with storytelling experts and policy-based organizations to bring these stories into public conversation. SAGE Story is led by Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), and is made possible through the generous support of the AARP Foundation and The Ford Foundation.

Why SAGE Story?

Social isolation affects many LGBT older people around the country in unique and disproportionate ways. LGBT elders are more likely to live alone and with thinner support networks. Additionally, the research shows that LGBT elders face higher disability rates, struggle with economic insecurity and higher poverty rates, and many elders deal with mental health concerns that come from having survived a lifetime of discrimination. Location-related barriers, coupled with stigma and discrimination, can make it difficult for LGBT older people in many parts of the country to find the LGBT-friendly community supports they need to age successfully and avoid social isolation.

The emerging community-based art and health research has found that storytelling programs can reduce isolation and promote positive health and well-being in old age for older adults. These programs can also offer providers and caregivers a better understanding of the life context of older people. For example, arts-based therapy can improve perceptions of one's health, coping and professional skills, health literacy, and cognitive and psychological well-being. They can also promote social connections, supportive networks and community engagement. Storytelling programs, in particular, can improve self-esteem and life satisfaction, and create community, especially among populations that are more marginalized.

The modern-day rise of the internet, social media and a vast array of mobile technologies has spawned a rapidly growing field of digital storytelling—life stories that are captured in multimedia formats to reach larger numbers of audiences.

Research shows that while older people are becoming more adept at using technology, as well as new and online media, many older people lack the skills to engage in virtual communities—even fewer have the skills to tell their stories using digital methods. From Pew Internet & American Life Project: "Adults age 65 and older are still significantly less likely to use the internet than other groups, but now 41% of them use the internet. In 2000, over five times as many adults under 30 used the internet as did adults 65 and older, but as of 2011 young adults' adoption levels are only a little over twice that of the 65-and-over age group. Among internet users, we see a very strong correlation in use with age, as some 87% of internet users under 30 use these sites, compared with less than a third (29%) of those 65 and older. However, though their overall numbers are still relatively low, older adults have represented one of the fastest-growing segments of the social networking site-using population. This growth may be driven by several factors, some of which include the ability to reconnect with people from the past, find supporting communities to deal with a chronic disease, and connect with younger generations.

Increasingly, social change advocates and community-based organizations are employing digital stories to humanize and historicize complex social issues, and to build awareness and support for issue-based campaigns.

Unfortunately, too few media outlets (both mainstream and community-based) produce news stories about LGBT aging, and even fewer include positive representations of LGBT elders, or interview LGBT elders as spokespeople.

Alpert, D., "Tell Your Nonprofit's Story More Effectively (with the Help of a Few Masters)," NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Network, 2/9/2012.
Angus, J. (2002). A review of evaluation in community-based art for health activity in the UK. London, UK: Health Development Agency; Hamilton, C., Hinks, S. and Petticrew, M. (2003). Arts for health: still searching for the Holy Grail. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 57, 401-402.
Fredriksen-Goldsen, K.I., Kim, H.J., Emlet, C.A., Muraco, A., Erosheva, E.A., Hoy-Ellis, C.P., Goldsen, J., & Petry, H. (2011). The aging and health report: Resilience and disparities among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender older adults. Seattle, WA: Institute for Multigenerational Health.
Kimmel, D., Rose, T., & David, S. (2006). Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender aging: Research and clinical perspectives. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Lasica, JD, "8 great examples of nonprofit storytelling,", April 21, 2011
Lowenthal, P. R. (2009). Digital storytelling—An emerging institutional technology? In J. Hartley & K. McWilliam (Eds.), Story circle: Digital storytelling around the world (pp. 252-259). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
Lowenthal, P. R., & Dunlap, J. (2010). From pixel on a screen to real person in your students' lives: Establishing social presence using digital storytelling. The Internet and Higher Education.
Movement Advancement Project & Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders. (2010). Improving the Lives of LGBT Older Adults. Denver and New York: MAP and SAGE.
Olson, Katherine E. and Marita A. O'Brien, Wendy A. Rogers, Neil Charness, "Diffusion of Technology: Frequency of use for Younger and Older Adults" Ageing International, (2011) 36:123-145 doi: 10.1007/s12126-010-9077-9.
Putland, C. (2008). Lost in Translation: The Question of Evidence Linking Community-based Arts and Health Promotion. Journal of Health Psychology, 13 (2), 265-276; and Rollins, J., Sonke, J., Cohen, R., Noles, A. and Li, J. (2009). State of the field report: Arts in healthcare/2009. Washington, DC: Society for the Arts in Healthcare.
Zickuhr, Kathryn and Aaron Smith, "Digital differences," Pew Internet & American Life Project, April 13, 2012,, accessed October 26, 2012.

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