• Jen Stevens

Report from SAGE/RI

by Cathy Gorman, SAGE-RI Steering Committee



Our uncertain times have become even more uncertain due to the COVID-19 public health crisis most seriously threatening adults over 60 years of age. SAGE-RI received valuable information from SAGE/USA to share with members and friends. Our primary concern is the health and safety of older LGBT adults, so scheduled events were canceled or will be rescheduled for when this crisis resolves.

We know that natural disasters historically take a greater toll on older adults and adults living with disabilities. The capacity to manage under difficult circumstances is enhanced by access to social capital, which is defined as the ability to function effectively through personal relationships built on trust and open cooperation. Social capital relies on a sense of shared identity, norms, and values, but performs best when networks are diverse. To create social capital for LGBT elders in the LGBT community, we are identifying unmet needs, and working to remove barriers to social engagement.

SAGE-RI will hold four small group discussions in northern Rhode Island, the Providence area, South County, and Aquidneck Island, to gain a better understanding of the concerns of LGBT older adults, and find ways to improve community services. After we analyze what we’ve learned from these discussions, a series of “Lunch and Learn” community meetings will report results, share information on key resources, and engage a wider audience in planning. This initiative is supported by a grant from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation. If interested, please email sageriinfo@gmail.com or call 406-1714. (Let the phone ring until you are asked to leave a message.) All calls will be returned, and anyone who expresses interest will be invited to attend the luncheon community meeting.

SAGE-RI is creating new opportunities for volunteers and for meeting critical individual needs. Lack of transportation is a difficult barrier to overcome and contributes to social isolation. SAGECoach, a pilot volunteer transportation program offering rides to SAGE-RI activities like the LGBT Café, is being developed in partnership with The Village Common of RI. The SAGECoach service will be launched (after we get through the current health crisis) with a campaign to recruit volunteer drivers.

A key component of the SAGE-RI mission involves offering training to healthcare and social service providers. Though it’s on hiatus during the pandemic, the current series of workshops, “Promoting Quality of Care for LGBT Older Adults: Issues and Strategies,” aims to develop cultural competence among Rhode Island’s elder service network. The curriculum, supported by the Rhode Island Foundation’s Equity Action Fund, addresses demographic factors, care planning, and gaps in knowledge regarding HIV and transgender issues. An educational version of the acclaimed Gen Silent documentary identifies caregiving concerns. Guidebooks and resource material provided by SAGE/USA and the National Center on LGBT Aging inform discussions on strategies for creating welcoming policies and procedures. Notices will be sent on rescheduled programs.

In order to build capacity, the SAGE-RI steering committee recently conducted an organizational assessment that outlined necessary steps to strengthening its foundation. Strategic planning during the next several months will lead to greater opportunities for member services and volunteer engagement. SAGE-RI looks forward to overcoming the COVID-19 crisis and commits to ensuring a safer and more inclusive community for our LGBT seniors.

SAGE-RI (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders) addresses issues of concern to LGBT elders and is an organization of diverse people of all ages. For information on programs or to join SAGE-RI, drop us a line at sageriinfo@gmail.com; find us on Facebook as SAGE-Rhode Island; or send correspondence to SAGE-RI c/o the Church of the Transfiguration, 1665 Broad Street, Cranston, RI 02905.

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Options Magazine

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