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March 25, 2015

Day 3: A Great Start at ASA

SAGE staffers at the American Society on Aging's 2015 Aging in America Conference will be reporting back to us all week with their views on the conference, panels they are participating in, innovative strides in the field of aging, ideas they are taking back to work and more! Check back daily for their insights.

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Just for fun - these SAGE Staffers and friends were packed in an elevator and headed to a special tour of the Town Hall Apartments, an LGBT-inclusive senior housing facility created by Center on Halsted and Heartland Housing.
 
Catherine_thurstonI had the pleasure of being a part of a presentation yesterday at the American Society on Aging Conference entitled “Innovative Senior Centers: A Model for the Future.”  The main presenters were Tom Weber, the Director of Care Management at SAGE and Patricia Cipora Harte, the Director of the Center for Adults Living Well @ the YMYWHA of Washington Heights. More than 50 audience members attended a lively session on the history of how both centers came to exist, including SAGE’s advocacy with the New York City Department for the Aging around how “community” can be defined in a myriad of ways, not only by geography.
 
The interactive session asked the audience, who represented Senior Centers across the country to think more deeply about what innovation means to them and the communities they serve and also shared lessons learned from SAGE and the Y’s 3+ years’ operating our centers. Tom and Patricia shared videos created by their staff showcasing their programs. In the “what we learned” segment of the workshop, Patricia spoke of “change being the only constant” and the importance of knowing your community. The importance of creating a culture in which both experimentation and failure were allowable was also highlighted.


 

Hilary_meyer2013Yesterday, I had the opportunity to co-facilitate a thoughtful and engaging session with my co-worker Dr. Tim Johnston, "Maximum Impact! Finding Intersections to Make Older Lives Better." This session was moderated by the Administration on Community Living’s Greg Link, about the impact of multicultural aging intersections. A number of participants reported on exciting successful programs including such as buddy-to-buddy and senior companions, foster grandparent, and co-branded programs with other communities of colors, etc. 

The participants also reported out on challenges such as finding ways to break down the provider suggestion that “we don’t need specific population services because we serve everyone the same.”  FORGE Transgender Aging Network’s Loree Cook-Daniels shared that her organization surveyed their target populations to ask “do you know what services are available” and “ do you access them – why or why not?” so that advocates have information to show providers that evidence transgender people actually do not use their services. 

National Hispanic Council on Aging’s Dr. Yanira Cruz shared that they hosted national focus groups across the country to understand the needs of Hispanic elders, to get information that would similarly help inform local service providers as well.

Other panelists that participated in the dynamic workshops included Bob Blancato of the Elder Justice Coalition, Angie Boddie of the National Caucus and Council on Black Aging, Quyen Dinh of the SouthEast Asia Resource Action Center, Aaron Tax of SAGE, and Amy Gotwals of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.


 

TJohnston1SAGE and the Alzheimer’s Association have been working together to bring LGBT cultural competency to the Association, and Alzheimer’s awareness to SAGE and SAGENet. Yesterday afternoon at the Aging in America conference Catherine Thurston, SAGE’s Senior Director for Services and Training and Marshawn Brown, the Alzheimer’s Association’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, spoke about the importance of strategic partnerships in creating LGBT allies.

Marshawn Brown began by describing how the Alzheimer’s Association conducted a diversity needs assessment that resulted in the Association identifying LGBT people as an underserved population. While the Association was engaged in this assessment, SAGE’s strategic planning process identified Alzheimer’s as an issue area worthy of special consideration. These overlapping goals set the stage for our partnership and served as the guidelines for developing our memorandum of understanding.

No group has the time or resources to reinvent the wheel, and this partnership is a great example of how two organizations can work together to improve their services and achieve strategic goals. Catherine Thurston noted that while SAGE is growing quickly, we “cannot do all and be all” which means that “creating partnerships is key to making sure that there is no wrong door for LGBT older people to walk through when seeking services.” Partnering with SAGE allows organizations to demonstrate their commitment to LGBT inclusivity and create a strong network of allies, helping to build an aging network that affirms LGBT older adults and caregivers.

Our partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association is well underway and already building bridges between LGBT and Alzheimer’s advocates and support services. We hope that this strategic partnership can serve as a model for other LGBT and aging service providers. ​

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