Column: The SAGE Generation
Senior Action in a Gay Environment (the original SAGE) was founded in New York City in 1978 to improve the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults.
According to the national mission statement (in www.sageusa.org), “SAGE has pioneered programs and services for the aging LGBT community, provided technical assistance and training to expand opportunities for LGBT older people across the country, and provided a national voice on LGBT aging issues.”
SAGE focuses on advocacy at both local and national levels, as well as activities, groups and programs that encourage LGBT older adults to stay connected with each other and with the community. Led by Executive Director Michael Adams, SAGE — now Services & Advocacy for GLBT [sic] Elders — works with LGBT elder adults and aging service providers to address and overcome the challenges of discrimination in elder adult service settings.
Locally, SAGE of South Florida was founded in 1994 by LGBT seniors who were active in chapters in New York City or other cities. Unlike the national organization, SAGE of South Florida kept its original name and its focus is social rather than political. According to its Mission Statement, “SAGE of South Florida is a non-profit organization for Senior Action in a Gay Environment to enrich the lives of the [LGBT] senior community through membership inclusive of age, gender, race, nationality and religion. We believe this can be accomplished by sponsoring social alternatives. To provide personal interaction, offering educational opportunities to deal with the special needs of aging, and promoting contact with the isolated and homebound persons of our community.”
Though SAGE’s demographics range far and wide, most of its members are of retirement age. (Still in my fifties, I am one of the South Florida chapter’s youngest members.)
SAGE of South Florida’s social events and programs provide its members with a wide range of activities (Visit www.sagewebsite.org for details). They include monthly dinners, a monthly “Lunch & Learn,” a monthly SAGE Women’s Lunch at the Golden Corral in Tamarac, a weekly Men’s Drop-In at the Pride Center at Equality Park, a single men’s group, a SAGE Book Club at Stonewall National Museum and Archives, a SAGE Computer Club, a SAGE on the Border/Alternatives in Boca Raton, an annual sea cruise and a series of quickly sold-out theater parties.
Many of the SAGE events are held on weekdays, which is convenient for retirees but not for those of us who still have day jobs. Even so, SAGE has something for everyone.
I recently attended SAGE’s Milestone Luncheon, held at the Pride Center at Equality Park. Over a hundred SAGE members and guests joined to honor the birthdays of SAGE’s most senior members, who have reached the ages of 90, 85, 80 or 75 years. The Milestone Luncheon was a festive affair, with an Invocation by Rabbi Noah Kitty of Congregation Etz Chaim, a special performance by the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus under the direction of Dr. Gary Keating (now back at the helm of the Chorus he founded over 26 years ago). The Luncheon was catered by Chef Giacomo Dresseno of Primavera Restaurant, a SAGE favorite. And of course there was birthday cake. Most importantly, SAGE’s Milestone Luncheon gave us the opportunity to connect with friends we have not seen since the last SAGE event.
The LGBT community, like society as a whole, is youth-oriented. Groups like SAGE, Prime Timers and A Celebration of Friends (among others) provide needed services and opportunities to a growing segment of our population.
I joined SAGE over a year ago, after accepting the fact that I was not getting any younger and that I needed a social group that reflected that fact. Though SAGE is not the sum total of my social life, I enjoy many of its activities as well as the women and men who make them possible.
This is the first of a series that I plan to write about SAGE, as well as Prime Timers, A Celebration of Friends, and other community organizations by and for LGBT seniors. If there is a group of people, organizations or events that you think I should write about, please contact me through SFGN or at firstname.lastname@example.org.