Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, & Transgender Elders (SAGE)
Headquarters Location: New York, NY
Mission: SAGE is the world's oldest and largest non-profit agency dedicated to serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender older people. Since its inception, 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. In 2005 SAGE became the first official LGBT delegate at a White House Conference on Aging. In 2008, SAGE presented its Fourth National Conference on LGBT Aging, entitled "It's About Time" sponsored by AARP.
In its early years—with a small office at St. Luke in the Fields Episcopal Church in Greenwich Village, just 1 to 2 staff members, a committed Board of Directors, and an energetic base of volunteers—SAGE created numerous original programs for LGBT older adults. These programs, which are still in existence today and have been duplicated around the country, include:
-The nation's first friendly visiting program for LGBT older adults
-The nation's first LGBT drop-in center
- The nation's first support group for older adults living with HIV/AIDS
-The nation's first municipally funded caregiver respite program for LGBT elders
Over time, it became clear that the number of older people in the U.S. was expanding rapidly, with the number of LGBT older adults expected to double by the year 2030. A robust network of organizations and individuals emerged across the country to address the widespread social isolation, financial insecurity and health care disparities facing LGBT older adults. And this network increasingly turned to SAGE for its pioneering programs and work to improve the lives of LGBT elders. SAGE began to build a nationwide presence, becoming a vital leader on LGBT aging issues. Today, SAGE:
Has 23 SAGENet affiliates in 17 states and the District of Columbia, providing services, programs and advocacy for LGBT elders in local communities across the country; Is the first and only LGBT organization to join the Leadership Council on Aging Organizations, the group of more than 60 prominent national aging advocacy organizations that represents millions of older Americans; and leads (in partnership with the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force), the National LGBT Aging Roundtable, a consortium of 50 organizations from around the country interested in improving the overall quality of life for LGBT older adults.
From the beginning, SAGE recognized that it was not enough to provide programs and services to LGBT older people. In order to create lasting change, we needed to ensure that policymakers—from city halls and state capitols, to Capitol Hill—take into full account the needs of LGBT older adults when creating aging policies. SAGE has partnered with state and local organizations around the country to drive advocacy at the state and federal levels, and solidified partnerships with key federal agencies, such as the Administration on Aging, to transform the systems that support older Americans. And our work has paid off. Some of SAGE's accomplishments include:
- Receiving a historic federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Administration on Aging to seed the creation of the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, the country's first and only training and technical assistance resource center for LGBT aging issues.
-Advocating for inclusion of LGBT older adults in the Older Americans Act, the country's leading vehicle for funding services and supports to older people across the U.S. Recently, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced the LGBT Elder Americans Act of 2012, which includes several SAGE-recommended amendments to ensure that the OAA supports LGBT older people.
-Opening the nation's first full-time, municipally funded LGBT senior center, The SAGE Center, in New York City
- Establishing the Diverse Elders Coalition with six other leading national organizations that address the needs of elders of color and LGBT elders—who together will soon be the majority of older Americans
- Becoming the first official LGBT delegate to the White House Conference on Aging in 2005—and in 2012, playing a vital role in the first ever White House LGBT Conference on Aging.
For SAGE, which will mark our 35th anniversary in 2013, this is just the beginning of our story. We know change takes time, coordination and resources—and the flexibility to adapt to shifting trends and new political leadership. With our long history of creating innovative programs, developing strategic national partnerships and providing training on LGBT aging issues to this country's aging network, SAGE is creating the systemic changes that will ensure that LGBT older adults, now and in future, will be able to age with dignity and respect.
Expert Reviews of Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, & Transgender Elders (SAGE)
Evidence of Impact Summary:Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders (SAGE) combines advocacy and direct service to serve the needs of the LGBT senior community. The overlapping identities of LGBT elders can be marginalizing as well as mentally and physically unsafe. SAGE has uses their political savvy to make elder issues more visible and to spark meaningful action on both a federal and local level. SAGE has spread the impact of its work through inspiring organizations to take up similar work. Likewise, SAGE affiliate organizations have began to replicate nationally.
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Organization Strengths Summary:Several experts noted that Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, & Transgender Elders (SAGE)has excellent leadership. The Executive Director, management team, and Board of Directors all play an important role in shaping the organization’s very clear vision and strategy. Likewise, the work of SAGE’s highly dedicated and thoughtful staff members helps SAGE greatly. SAGE does an excellent job collaborating with a variety of organizations to address issues.
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Areas for Improvement Summary:Many experts would like to see Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, & Transgender Elders (SAGE) become more clear on the scope of their work. At times SAGE can straddle local, regional, and national in complicated ways. Likewise they could better define their balance between direct service and advocacy and policy issues. SAGE may also want to consider expanding their policy agenda to include national legislation, social security, and health insurance issues. One expert suggested that SAGE engage more young LGBT individuals as allies. The organization may also consider improving staff retention and diversifying their funding.
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Expert Comments: Evidence of Impact
Major Sector Influence
|SAGE's impact has been the release of three major and influential policy reports on LGBT aging issues over the past five years. They received the first federally funded National Center For Technical Assistance In LGBT Aging grant from HRSA and implemented it. They started the first model publicly funded LGBT Senior Center in NYC and in the country; national leader on LGBT aging policies, programs and best practices.|
|Their impact is evident in the significant advancement of LGBT aging and care giving issues through policy, programming, and development of stronger networks.|
|SAGE has done an extraordinary job of increasing the level, variety, and quality of services provided to LGBT New Yorkers. It has also become the leading voice of advocacy on behalf of older LGBT Americans.|
|SAGE has had a significant impact both as a local, New York area agency serving older adults, but also on a national level with respect to policy and advancing the interests of older LGBT people within the mainstream of aging services. SAGE has successfully developed the enormously important National Resource Center for LGBT Aging with funding from the US Department of Health and Human Services, and did this by successfully mobilizing broad participation in the aging field, both from other LGBT-specific organizations and from more broad-based organizations such as American Society on Aging (ASA), National Council on Aging (NCOA), and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (N4A). SAGE has also recently spearheaded a new coalition, the Diverse Elders Coalition, to help create links between organizations serving people of color communities and the LGBT community.|
|SAGE has brought significant attention to LGBT aging issues and received the first national grant to operate a national LGBT aging resource center through HHS.|
|SAGE has done a great job of raising awareness of the issues facing LGBT seniors through publications on specific issues as well as through extensive public education and earned media.|
|SAGE is without a doubt the leader in addressing LGBT aging issues. It has not only piloted important new projects like the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging and the first LGBT senior center, but it has forged important new coalitions, single-handedly positioning LGBT elders as firmly within the framework of "ethnic elders," giving us clout and allies we've never before had. They have also partnered with many other leading LGBT institutions, helping them have a stake in LGBT aging as well.|
|SAGE has moved the US Administration on Aging and the Leadership Conference on Aging organizations to make LGBT issues a priority and take concrete actions such as pressing for explicitly LGBT-inclusive provisions in Older Americans Act reauthorization and creating a federal LGBT training video for long-term care providers. Their National Resource Center has provided training to scores of service providers around the country. The rapidly expanding network of SAGEnet affiliates is remarkable in itself.|
|SAGE has been the unique leader in bringing attention to the invisible needs of the LGBT senior community. They have brought about profound change in policy, service, and training arenas, allowing the ever-growing number of elders to retire and enter their final years with dignity, safety, and support.|
Focus on Senior LGBT Population
|They are responsible for direct action and traction on issues related to LGBT aging. Documented efficacy with grantwriting into EOHHS.|
|Their impact can be seen in thier significant volume and quality of direct services. They opened the first LGBT elder community center in nation and were a first partner in the national LGBT elder resource center via US HHS. They have had a significant public policy impact on federal-level policies impacting LGBT elders.|
|Their impact can be seen in the opening of the first ever senior center for LGBT seniors. They are raising the visibility of LGBT aging issues with the federal administration and assuring the fiscal management of the organization, which includes buying a new building.|
|SAGE has done an incredible job in building an agenda for improving the lives of LGBT elders that is broad-reaching and diverse. Additionally, SAGE has executed a number of these agenda items, including launching a resource center, increasing direct service to LGBT older adults, and effectively advocating for the inclusion of LGBT people in broader conversations about older adults in the US.|
|SAGE has helped prompt the federal government to pay attention to the needs of aging LGBT people; it has created a resource center for seniors in NYC. The organization has created a network of SAGE-affiliated organizations in other parts of the country; and it has initiated deep connections and collaborations with other advocates for the aging.|
|SAGE has a unique mission to meet the social and advocacy needs of LGBT senior citizens.|
Modeling & Replicating
|One indicator of their impact is the fact that mainstream aging groups are increasingly adopting LGBT issues in their work and agendas due to SAGE's advocacy and education.|
|SAGE affiliate agencies are being created nationwide to support the needs of LGBT elders. They provide technical assistance for starting SAGE programs and are seen as thought leaders in terms of LGBT elder care.|
Expert Comments: Organization Strengths
|The SAGE Board and Executive Management team, under the highly competent and visionary leadership of its Executive Director Michael Adams, work cooperatively and effectively as a team to address priority areas of need, to utilize data and evidence to inform their direction and decisions, to make the best use of available resources, and to ensure that the funds they raise and the programs they develop reach the constituents they serve directly in 19 cities and towns across the country. They are innovators: the first publicly funded LGBT Senior Center; first National Technical Assistance Center on LGBT aging, etc.|
|Their managers are responsive and educated.|
|Leadership has transformed the organization over the past 5 years from a local to a national impact. Marketing and visibility high and consistent with what they are able to deliver.|
|They have strong leadership and fundraising.|
|Their strengths are leadership, vision, operations, and their model integrates both service and public policy.|
|The Executive Director is a strategic leader who has been able to turn an organization that was lacking infrastructure and clear fiscal management into one that has a high national profile, respected programming, and solid infrastructure and financial health.|
|Michael Adams, SAGE’s Executive Director, is extraordinary as a CEO who has taken a struggling organization and put it firmly back on sound financial footing. SAGE has developed a series of program services that are tailored to the varied needs of LGBT New Yorkers.|
|The leadership and staff at SAGE are dedicated, thoughtful, and impactful.|
|SAGE has a highly capable staff. From program delivery to fiscal management, communications and advocacy, their organizational performance standards are very high.|
|SAGE’s brand and potential for growth is strong.|
Strong Networking and Collaboration
|They have a large, functioning network of SAGEnet local and regional chapters to connect the national organization and focus to that of the local communities across the country. Collaborative in its approach to addressing the issues.|
|SAGE has a great Executive Director and does an excellent job collaborating with other gay and non-gay organizations.|
|SAGE hired the first full-time lobbyist for LGBT issues in Washington, vastly increasing their visibility and clout. As noted above, leadership is visionary and collaborative. Wherever possible, SAGE works to bring other agencies forward as well, sponsoring SAGE-NET and the Aging Roundtable, both of which exist to network and bring resources to allied LGBT aging organizations.|
|They have strong local programs that connect them with the real needs of older LGBT people in everyday life, and have developed strong ties with the national aging advocacy movement as well, putting LGBT issues squarely on the national aging agenda. Their National Resource Center has produced lots of quality, accessible resources for service providers.|
|SAGE has been a leader among LGBT organizations (prompting us to focus more on the needs of LGBT elders), and among advocates for the aging (prompting them to focus more on the needs of LGBT elders as well). SAGE has also proved quite adept at fundraising.|
|SAGE has stayed true to their mission through the years and continues to do the work it does best, and because of their strong reputation, they have been able to build more relationships with mainstream providers that will be instrumental in addressing the shifting needs of this population.|
Expert Comments: Areas for Improvement
|They need some strategic planning to determine priorities locally versus nationally and how to acquire additional funding resources and then the best way to allocate for sustainability; they need to determine if they should be investing in licensure to be able to be reimbursable, as grant funding is diminishing for service provision and being part of a reimbursable integrated system of care is coming with healthcare reform.|
|I am looking for SAGE to grow as a national presence. Also, like every organization, SAGE could expand its funding base.|
|Although New York is a major city and organizations that have local roots there frequently develop national significance the way SAGE has done, I think at some point SAGE will have to decide if it is a national organization or a local one with national aspirations, because there are some things it makes sense for a national organization to do that aren't appropriate for a local or regional organization, and vice versa. Moreover, SAGE's work as a community-based aging organization would be difficult to replicate nationally, whereas their work as a policy development, advocacy, education, and coalition-building organization have organic and apparent growth paths on a national scale. Trying to run a senior center in one city and mobilize a national movement may not be the most efficient organizational strategy.|
|They could work to better articulate its balance between direct service and advocacy and policy issues.|
Improve Staff Retention
|They could improve on their marketing and staff retention.|
|They could benefit from even greater diversity in their funding base. I would also like to see even deeper policy capacity at the city, state, and federal levels.|
Engage Young Allies
|Younger LGBT people need to be engaged to help SAGE accomplish its goals of ensuring that LGBT older adults remain a valued part of the LGBT community.|
Expand Policy Agenda
|I would like to see them improve their efforts to get LGBT-specific language written into broader aging legislation at the national level. They could also speak out more on important issues of concern to LGBT elders, such as social security and health insurance. They could collaborate more transparently with major national aging organizations such as AARP.|
|SAGE's policy work outside of New York and their work on the federal Older Americans Act has been modest, despite the resources and connections they bring to the table. The organization has not yet succeeded in bringing forward many older trans community voices or in creating concrete resources or interventions focused on transgender people—though a recent report co-authored with NCTE is an important step.|
|Because SAGE is located in the largest LGBT community in the nation, it is sometimes out of touch with the reality of those of us who live where LGBT-only services are not possible. I'm not sure how this could be fixed, unless it sponsored a program that specifically focused on this issue. I also wish SAGE would collaborate more on transgender issues.|
Improve Marketing & Communication
|SAGE needs to expand the community's understanding of the depth of their work.|
Prior to joining SAGE, Michael was the Director of Education and Public Affairs for Lambda Legal. Prior to that, Michael spent a decade leading cutting-edge litigation that established new rights for LGBT people, first as Associate Director of the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, and then as Deputy Legal Director at Lambda Legal.
A graduate of Stanford Law School and Harvard College, Michael has authored numerous publications on an array of LGBT issues. He has taught law school courses on sexual orientation and gender identity and has served on advisory councils for AARP, the American Society on Aging, and the New York City Department for the Aging among others. Michael has discussed and debated LGBT issues on hundreds of media programs, including Larry King Live, The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity & Colmes, and NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered. He has twice been named one of the "100 most influential gay men and lesbians" by Out Magazine.