I’m pleased to announce that New Orleans Advocates for GLBT Elders (NOAGE) has become a SAGE affiliate, and will now be known as SAGE New Orleans.
For the first year of this transition, we will actually be known as SAGE New Orleans – NOAGE. We had planned to make this announcement at our annual membership reception last month. Unfortunately, that event had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we definitely plan to have a celebration of this important milestone as soon as it becomes safe to do so.
By joining SAGE, we have become part of the nation’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT older people, and are now directly connected with over 30 other affiliates who are devoted to this important work.
While the name of our organization is changing, our mission remains the same. NOAGE was formed in response to the increasing needs of the New Orleans area’s aging LGBT population. SAGE New Orleans is committed to ensuring that all LGBT older people in the New Orleans metro area can live their best lives with the dignity, respect, and good health that they deserve.
To achieve this, we host social events (coffee talks, support groups, potlucks, movie nights, fitness groups, etc.) for LGBT older adults. “SAGE New Orleans has been so helpful in my struggle against being alone and disconnected,” said constituent Wayne Sizemore. “I look forward to this organization bringing members of our community to the table and using our voice and experience as a guide for expansion.”
We also work to increase the cultural competency of healthcare and other service providers through trainings and workshops. LGBT older people are often afraid to come out to healthcare professionals, for fear of discrimination and mistreatment, and may go back into the closet when entering long-term care facilities. To address these issues, SAGE New Orleans has provided hundreds of local healthcare and other service providers with LGBT cultural competence training.
Many people are unaware that the founders of NOAGE originally planned to launch the organization as a SAGE affiliate. Ten years ago, local attorney, Jason Waguespack, was living in the French Quarter with his partner. “Every day when we walked the dogs,” he said, “we would pass our elderly neighbor, Jacques, who spent his day sitting at his window just looking outside. We got to know him, and he’d lived a fascinating life, but he had lost his partner years before, and he was alone with no family. He just spent his days staring out of that window.”
Waguespack wondered what resources there were in New Orleans for LGBT older people, and soon found out that there weren’t many. He met with Jason Tudor (who was then a community outreach director for AARP Louisiana), and the two of them formed a steering committee of other community leaders with the goal of launching a new SAGE affiliate organization in New Orleans.
Because SAGE was then in the process of reworking and standardizing their affiliate application process, they were temporarily not taking new affiliates. Rather than wait, the local steering committee made the decision to launch as an independent organization called NOAGE.
From its earliest days, NOAGE looked to SAGE’s programming and services in New York and other locations as a model for helping to address the loneliness and isolation that many LGBT people face as they age. SAGE’s leadership has provided support and advice to me throughout the five years that I’ve been involved with this organization, and I’d like to give a very special commendation to Serena Worthington, their Director of U.S. and Global Collaborations. She not only guided us through ever step of the process of becoming a SAGE affiliate, but has also provided support to our organization from day one.
Now that we are officially a SAGE affiliate, I am in regular contact with leaders of other affiliates across the country. This has been especially helpful during the current COVID-19 pandemic because I’ve been able to see how other affiliates are responding, and how they have adjusted their programming to keep their constituents safely connected and supported during this uncertain time.
SAGEConnect, for example, is a new program that connects LGBT older people across the country with others who are interested in sharing a friendly phone conversation once a week. To learn more about that initiative, you can visit sageusa.org/sageconnect.
SAGE New Orleans is currently hosting two events per week: our HIV support group, led by Dr. Andrew Watley, and our Coffee Talks, moderated by Dr. Catherine Roland. Both of these recurring events are held on Zoom; participants can either join with video via the Zoom app, or by simply calling in by phone.
We hope that we’ll be able to get back to our usual in-person programming soon, but for now, all of our programming will be virtual. If you or someone you know is interested in participating in our groups, or if you have any ideas of suggestions about other virtual events that you’d like for us to host, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (504) 517-2345.
The SAGE New Orleans Board of Directors has three new members: Joseph Kimbrell, Rodney Thoulion, and Ed Trapido.
Mr. Kimbrell has spent his entire career in the field of public health. He worked for the New Orleans Health Department, then for the Louisiana Office of Public Health, and then spent the past nineteen years as the CEO of the Louisiana Public Health Institute.
Mr. Thoulion has been the Director of Development for CrescentCare since 2014. Prior to that, he served as Executive Director for Friends of City Park. He has also worked in the fields of publishing and marketing, and has spent many years being of service to various local LGBT groups and causes.
Dr. Trapido, an epidemiologist, is Professor and Associate Dean for Research at the LSU School of Public Health in New Orleans. Last year, he worked with NOAGE to facilitate the first survey of the older LGBTQ community of New Orleans, and he currently serves on the Board of Trustees for CrescentCare.
Three members of the SAGE New Orleans Board of Directors have completed their terms. Misti Gaither has raised thousands of dollars for the organization, and both Katherine Hoover and Glenn Reames have been involved since the initial steering committee that formed NOAGE. All three have been an important part of the team, and I’m proud to call them my friends.
I’d like to close with a few words about Paul Metoyer, who passed away last month.
Paul was a former member of our Board of Directors. He was deeply committed to our work, and contributed in countless ways to our mission. He always had wise advice and insight, and was unfailing in his cheerful demeanor, good humor, and infectious smile.
Paul was active in many organizations here in New Orleans, and we were very blessed that he brought his compassion and drive to ours. He will be very deeply missed, and never forgotten.