Bronx lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors will now have a place to go for both camaraderie and assistance.
The national organization Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders celebrated the opening of its first full-time senior center in the Bronx on Wednesday, January 14.
The opening was part of a $1.5 million initiative in 2014 to create full-time SAGE centers across the city, funded by the city council and opened with support from the NYC Department for the Aging.
A Staten Island center opened in December, as welll as an expanded center in Harlem. There is also currently centers in both midtown Manhattan and Brooklyn.
The initiative to bring SAGE centers to more New Yorkers was spearheaded by Councilman Ritchie Torres. The new center at Union Community Health Center in Fordham falls within his district.
At the grand opening ceremony of the SAGE Center Bronx, attended by a number of city councilmembers including Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Torres called the event an emotional moment.
“This has tremendous meaning for me as a gay man,” he said.
When SAGE approached him, Torres said he was upset to learn that while there are an estimated 100,000 LGBT seniors in the city, there was only one full-time LGBT senior center.
“It’s hard to imagine a population that is more invisible, and more tragically under-served than LGBT elders,” said Torres.
It was important to the councilman to help create more safe-spaces for LGBT seniors, where they can be themselves without fear.
“They no longer have to age alone,” said Torres.
The goal of the center is to provide Bronx LGBT seniors with a place for both socializing and support where there previously was none, said SAGE Center Bronx site manager Jose Collazo.
“They don’t have the opportunity to commune with each other,” he said.
The center will offer a calendar full of fun activities including games, crafts, and movies, among other activities that the seniors can suggest. A hot lunch will be also provided each day.
In addition, there will be exercise classes and nutrition workshops, and the staff can provide help with navigating various government benefits.
“They can get vital information they need so they can lead an active and healthy life,” said Collazo.
SAGE also provides a network of resources, such as providing recommendations for gay-friendly health care providers or other services.
“They now have an agency that will advocate for them,” said Collazo about the senior centers.
For more information about SAGE Center Bronx, visit www.sageusa.org, or call SAGE Center Bronx at (718) 220-2020.