By Crystal Proxmire
The gay rights movement is getting older and getting bolder, and on June 23 LGBT older adults will come together for a daylong conference on aging. The free event will have workshops on topics that are important to people as they age, and folks will be invited to get involved in the Older Adult Coalition, which is well on the way to becoming a SAGE Chapter (SAGE stands for Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders.)
As the Older Adult Coalition moves closer to becoming an official chapter of this national organization, they’re pleased to welcome Aaron Tax, the director of federal government relations for services and advocacy for GLBT elders. Tax will be talking about the problems facing older adults and sharing what his agency is doing in Washington to get as much recognition and funding for serving the vulnerable older gay community.
“I’m going to speak with them and also want to learn from them,” Tax said about his upcoming visit. “We need people to be educated and involved and we need people who will speak up for older adults even though they’re not there yet… I think people just don’t want to face growing old, so they ignore the problems and they don’t get involved. It’s like denial, if they don’t see it, it won’t happen to them.”
SAGE has been serving LGBT older adults since 1978 and has grown to 21 affiliates in 15 states. While helping affiliates organize locally, they also do political advocacy.
“There are two primary areas we are working on right now,” Tax said. “One is the Older Americans act. This is the primary vehicle for the organization and delivery of nutrition to older adults. It was part of Pres. Lyndon Johnson’s great society program, and was created the same year as Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.
“The primary purpose is to enable older Americans to stay at home in their communities and not have to be placed in care. That’s what most people want and it’s better for the system to make it so people can stay at home as long as possible,” said Tax. “The act provides for chore assistance, transportation, meals through programs like Meals on Wheels and home nutrition programs. There are a slew of programs to older communities. What we’re doing with this is that the Act has no mention of LGBT older adults.”
Tax explained the three primary goals SAGE has in regard to the Older Americans Act.
The first is to have older LGBT adults listed as group of greatest economic and social needs, like other demographic groups are. “Funds come from the federal government and are funneled through Area Agencies on Aging. We want to make sure when folks receive this money that they reach out to the LGBT community and work with LGBT groups,” Tax said.
“Many LGBT adults are afraid to engage with the programs. This will say you have to make efforts to reach out to LGBT community. They have to know what is available and they have to be able to access these services.” Tax said there are 600 areas on aging, 20,000 service providers spread throughout the country. “This little change of the law will have a big impact,” he said.
The second change to the Older Americans Act would be to require funding for data collection of LGBTs as a group. “Data drives funding,” he said. “Plus how can you know if you are meeting the needs of a community if you don’t ask them?”
The third is to renew funding for the National Resource Center for LGBT Aging, which is a critical piece of SAGE outreach. The Center is run with collaborations with a dozen partner organizations and gives them a hub to provide information to three key target audiences: LGBT Older Adults, Aging Networks that serve all senior citizens, and to share information with the LGBT community about the needs of their eldest members.
Tax is the keynote speaker for the Planning For The Future event. Other workshops will share information about health and wellness, managing health care, protecting finances, employment and volunteer opportunities and older adult/youth networking. The event is free and includes continental breakfast and lunch.
Planning For The Future takes place June 23 at The Michigan State University Detroit Campus located at 3408 Woodward Avenue just south of Mack Avenue in Detroit. The facility is completely wheelchair accessible with ample free parking adjacent to the building.
The event is brought to you by a collaboration of LGBT and aging service organizations in the Metro Detroit Region, including: ACLU, Adult Wellbeing Services, Affirmations, Area Agency on Aging 1-B, KICK, Citizens for Better Care, The Jim Toy Community Center, Oakland Family Services, and The Village of Redford. This event is made possible by a grant from the HOPE Fund
For more information or to register: Call Affirmations: 248-398-7105 Visit http://www.LGBTolderadults.com.