SAGE affiliate leaders gather to share knowledge and advocate for LGBTQ+ elders

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SAGE affiliates from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C., for their annual conference. This year’s conference, which was held in March 2019 in conjunction with SAGE’s first National Day of Advocacy, brought together the largest group of people in the U.S. who lead programs tailored to the needs of LGBTQ+ older adults.

SAGE affiliate leaders and SAGE staff at the 2019 SAGENet Leadership Conference

“Each year, we meet to deepen our skills by sharing what works in our communities,” said Serena Worthington, SAGE’s Director of National Field Initiatives. “It fuels us to do the work we love with and for LGBTQ+ elders.”

Lance Robertson (left) and SAGE CEO Michael Adams

The affiliate leaders, hailing from California to Rhode Island and 21 states in between, engaged in a variety of topics pertaining to LGBTQ+ aging. Guest speakers included as Dr. Imani Woody, the founder and CEO of Mary’s House for Older Adults, Harper Jean Tobin of the National Center for Transgender Equality, and Autumn Campbell from the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a). The group was also visited by Lance Robertson, the Assistant Secretary for Aging at the Administration for Community Living, who talked about the possibility that the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act would recognize that LGBTQ+ elders and older people living with HIV need improved access to aging services and supports.

From left: Michael Adams, Angie Perone, and Steve Dawson

SAGE Metro Detroit’s Executive Director, Angie Perone, received the Ken Dawson LGBTQ+ Aging Advocate Award, which was presented by Steve Dawson, Ken Dawson’s brother, and SAGE CEO Michael Adams. The Ken Dawson LGBTQ+ Aging Advocate Award is presented each year to a SAGE affiliate leader who exemplifies the outstanding leadership and vision that Ken provided to SAGE during the organization’s formative years. Perone is a is an attorney and researcher who, prior to joining SAGE, served as a staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, where she oversaw its LGBTQ+ Elder Law Program and helped start one of the first transgender-specific elder law clinics. She currently serves on Michigan State’s Advisory Council on Aging and is pursuing a PhD in social work and sociology at the University of Michigan.

Leaders from SAGE Alaska, SAGE Maine, and SAGE of PROMO Fund (St. Louis) participated in a focus group geared toward sharing the challenges and opportunities of working with and for LGBTQ+ older people in rural areas. Emerging topics included being “out” in non-urban settings, training rural assisted living and hospitals in culturally competent care, and building and maintaining social networks.

SAGE Metro Detroit’s Pat Baldwin speaks with other affiliate leaders during a small group breakout session.

Most important of all, SAGE affiliate leaders built relationships with others around the nation who are committed to bettering the lives of LGBTQ+ elders. “Only four days together, and I absolutely adore every single person in this group,” said SAGE Metro Tampa Bay’s Cole Foust. “Heartfelt. Passionate. Leaders. Serena Worthington and everyone at SAGE orchestrated a life-changing experience, and it’s very reassuring to know these individuals are serving and advocating for LGBTQ+ elders all over the nation.”

Reynaldo Mireles Jr., leader of SAGE of the Rockies, said it was “an amazing time in Washington, D.C.” and was grateful for “the opportunity to hang out with all the wonderful people across the nation working with and for LGBTQ+ older adults. SAGE gave me encouragement to be brave in sharing my story and those of our LGBTQ+ elders living in Colorado. Attending SAGE’s first National Day of Advocacy together most certainly made an impact on the Capitol. Cheers to everyone who stood beside me to help make our voices heard!”

Find a SAGE affiliate near you or fill out our form for more information about starting a SAGE affiliate in your state.