This post originally appeared on the SAGE blog.
How can we help our LGBT community age successfully? It’s a difficult question, but one that SAGE is determined to answer with our many resources and programs–including our innovative “Successful Aging” program. A quick check-in with Jerry Chasen, Director of Legacy Planning at SAGE and head of the program, shares the necessity of planning and being aware of our aging future. We asked Jerry a few questions before the TV premiere of “Gen Silent,” a powerful documentary that follows six LGBT elders as they navigate the hardships facing LGBT older adults. The film premieres today: Monday, November 9, at 9pm ET on Logo. Watch the trailer here and learn more below.
Many LGBT older people will never participate in SAGE programs, or avail themselves of SAGE services, even as they get to what we affectionately call “SAGE age.” But that’s okay. SAGE has lots to offer every LGBT person as they get older.
There are some fundamental ways that aging will change for everyone in the coming decades. The LGBT community of course will experience the same issues that all older Americans face. But there are also ways that this generation of LGBT older people will face challenges beyond those experienced by older people generally. We’re more likely to be isolated, less likely to have an intergenerational network of support, and we don’t have confidence that programs and institutions that address aging generally will welcome or serve us.
Successful Aging provides a context for us to discuss these issues proactively and positively. A good deal of the aging experience is determined by choices we make. Through the program’s five themes—Reflection, Momentum, Wellness, Preparation, and Legacy— we focus on those choices. Successful Aging raises both awareness of the issues and the options, and provides support going forward.
What has SAGE hoped to accomplish with Successful Aging?
There are various components of the Successful Aging program—live presentations, emails, website “lessons,” social media sharing. We spent time last year tweaking the various aspects, including doing a “test run” for key SAGE supporters and other audiences. We’ve now got a good tool box of materials to engage our audience.
We recognize that talking about aging in some respects makes people think about their own mortality, so starting that discussion is itself often a challenge.
Nonetheless, quoting Ben Franklin “failing to plan is planning to fail,” and it’s as true of aging as anything else.
What’s on the horizon for Successful Aging?
We’ll continue to build on what we’ve been doing. People are very receptive and interested in our program— interested enough to have asked for more. We’ve organized various presentations, and have also presented our program at the invitation of corporate ERGs, other non-profits, and private advisors. For example a financial planner who attended a presentation arranged for us to present before a group of her clients. This is a great way to support SAGE and the Successful Aging initiative.
What our participants have to say is critical. At the end of the day, aging is an individual experience. We invite feedback and input from attendees, and so we’re able to learn from one another. If people let us know what they’re interested in, we support them by sending information to them on that subject.
In January, we’re going to launch a series of Activities, one per month, which will encourage and facilitate deeper exploration of various things that will support aging. That will be combined with some online discussion and sharing, beginning to develop some of the connections and community that will really help make this program effective.
Your position at SAGE is “Director of Legacy Planning.” How does Successful Aging connect with that?
I’m a 64 year old man. I look at where we as a community have journeyed and I’m immensely proud. To have come from Stonewall, through the horror of the AIDS epidemic, to marriage equality has been quite a trip—and leaves quite a legacy.
But none of us are done. I look ahead at what I call the “next chapter” for me personally, for my community, and for SAGE’s work. The way we navigate these years will be the capstone on that legacy, and I’m doing what I can to help SAGE make that happen.
Learn more about Successful Aging and be sure to check out “GenSilent” on Monday night for an in-depth look at the lives of a few of our LGBT elders.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.