March 1, 2012; Source: The Village Voice

Last Thursday, the nation’s first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) senior citizens’ center opened in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood.

The SAGE Center, a collaboration between the nonprofit SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) and New York City’s Department for the Aging, provides social services to LGBT seniors including meals, mental health initiatives, fitness classes, health and wellness seminars, arts events and technology lessons.

Roger Mácon, a 64-year-old Queens resident, told the Village Voice, “This is very important for elderly gay and LGBT people. We need a place like this as we become [older]…We feel comfortable to be ourselves.” Mácon had recently lost his partner of 22 years and said SAGE helped him handle some legal battles related to the death.

Gladys Berrocal, 62, also from Queens, is excited to see more services for gay seniors like her—citizens who were once entirely ignored.

Before, there was nothing,” she said. “Now, we are going somewhere.”

The SAGE Center is part of New York City’s Innovative Senior Center program, an initiative by Mayor Michael Bloomberg that gives 10 of the city’s leading aging organizations the opportunity to better serve their constituents with creative, needs-based programming that will create models for the “senior center of the future.”

It is really an amazing thing to think about, that we passed marriage equality. We have an LGBT senior center right here in Manhattan,” said openly gay City Council Speaker Christine Quinn during the center’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. “There’s a time not so long ago when both of those things would have seemed impossible, and we are sending a message today that the impossible is not only possible, it is expected and will continue in the city of New York for all of us.”

The SAGE Center is a much needed space for LGBT seniors to do what their peers do in other senior centers—a place to be open about who they are without fear of being ostracized or, worse, abused. –Erwin de Leon