Positive Momentum: Reflecting on Yesterday’s White House Conference on Aging

In the days and weeks following the White House Conference on Aging, we’ll be highlighting our community members’ experiences and reflections from this historic event. Today, we’re sharing Michael Adams’ take on what the WHCOA means for LGBTQ elders. This post originally appeared on the SAGE blog.

I’m excited to report that Monday’s White House Conference on Aging included some major breakthroughs for SAGE and LGBT older people across the country. In recent months, SAGE has prepared diligently to ensure that LGBT voices would be heard at this influential conference, held every ten years. As I listened to an inspiring and impassioned statement to conference leaders from iconic LGBT aging activist Sandy Warshaw, who called for anti-discrimination protections and voiced her refusal to be closeted in old age, I knew that we had succeeded on that score.

Highlights from the day included a critically important announcement from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)  that the federal government will take decisive steps to end discrimination against LGBT elders in all government-assisted housing.  Given that housing discrimination against LGBT elders is rampant in senior housing, the HUD announcement was a huge advance.  A second important announcement came from the Administration on Aging (AoA), which announced a new partnership with SAGE to convene key service providers in the aging sector, collect data on how LGBT elders are being served, and identify action steps AoA can take during the last year of the Obama Administration to make aging services more LGBT-friendly.   

Thinking back on the last White House Conference on Aging, held in 2005, I’m truly amazed by how far we’ve come in ten years. We’ve moved LGBT issues from fringes of the larger conversation on aging to its very center. As one example, the needs and experiences of LGBT elders were specifically referenced at the conference by Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee, and Ai-Jen Poo of Caring Across Generations. It’s inspiring to see that LGBT older people have truly been granted a seat at the table.

Sandy Warshaw, SAGE Delegate at The White House Conference on Aging

SAGE Delegate, Sandy Warshaw, raises her concern about facing discrimination as she ages as a lesbian at The White House Conference on Aging

In the weeks to come, we’ll be talking more about what was accomplished at today’s White House Conference on Aging, and what SAGE’s federal advocacy game plan is moving forward.  We did a lot at the White House yesterday.  Looking ahead, there is so much more that we need to do!

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.