New York City will soon be home to the nation’s first full-time center for elderly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents, which is scheduled to open in January.
On Wednesday, the Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) was awarded an "Innovative Senior Center" (ISC) contract by the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA) for the new project. The SAGE Center will be based in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood but offer a "comprehensive array of services and support" to LGBT elders throughout all five boroughs.
Though financial aspects of the deal were not released, SAGE is just one of eight providers selected as part of the ISC initiative. Others chosen for development include one facility specifically for adults with vision problems, and another offering a community gardening option. "The needs of seniors have evolved since centers were created 50 years ago and now is the time to re-envision the one-size-fits-all approach that has traditionally shaped many of our centers," Bloomberg said in a statement.
According to SAGE Senior Director of Programming Catherine Thurston, the new facility will offer its participants a variety of unique programming that, while not necessarily radically different in terms of content, will be designed to cater to the needs and interests of the LGBT community. "For elderly people who are also LGBT, going to traditional senior centers can pose a variety of unique challenges," Thurston told The Huffington Post. "Many LGBT elderly say they feel they’ve encountered discrimination, anything from simply feeling excluded to something more overt. ... If you cannot authentically be who you are at this stage of your life, it’s really tragic."
Authorities also say the center will service an estimated 300 people a day throughout the city, while its Manhattan-based headquarters will provide an anticipated 130 hot meals each day. Though SAGE currently provides similar programming at New York’s LGBT Community Center in Greenwich Village, the new contract will allow officials to extend the services to those who may not be aware or able to access them otherwise. "Obviously the impact will be much greater than that because it won’t be the same 300 people each day," Thurston added.
When it opens, the SAGE Center will follow similar facilities in Spain and Germany in catering to the elderly LGBT population. In addition, DFTA Commissioner Lilliam Barrios-Paoli said the center would be a critical step in improving New York’s image as an age-friendly city. "We are very excited that for the first time in this country, LGBT seniors will have a full-service, comprehensive center with access to supports and services to meet their specific need," she noted in an email.