Pride Month
May 19, 2022

5 Questions With Sherrill Wayland of SAGE

5 Questions With Sherrill Wayland of SAGE


Sherrill Wayland Headshot

SAGE is an important NYSOFA partner whose mission helps address disparities and assure competent care for LGBTQ+ older adults.

For our Pride Month edition of 5 Questions, we talked to Sherrill Wayland, Director of Special Initiatives at SAGE, to hear more about SAGE and ways that aging services providers can best serve LGBTQ+ older adults in their communities.  

Tell us a little about SAGE and the services it provides to LGBTQ+ older adults?

SAGE is the world’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ+ elders and caregivers. SAGE offers a wide variety of programs and services for LGBTQ+ elders, both in New York and nationwide.

In New York City, SAGE supports LGBTQ+ elders at five SAGE Centers and provides LGBTQ+-friendly housing at Stonewall House in Brooklyn and Crotona Pride House in the Bronx. SAGE also participates in advocacy work alongside LGBTQ+ elders by working with key officials and administrators to advocate for the community at the local, state, and federal levels.

Additional national programs include: SAGECare, a cultural competency program for care providers; SAGE’s National LGBTQ+ Housing Initiative; SAGEConnect, which matches LGBT elders with volunteers for weekly phone calls; technical assistance, information referral, and education through the National Resource Center on LGBTQ+ Aging; the Long-term Care Equality Index, an assessment tool to help promote LGBTQ+ cultural competence in long-term care communities; the SAGECents digital wellness platform, and more.

SAGE also works with a growing network of strategic partner organizations to ensure a greater quality of life for LGBTQ+ elders. These services and advocacy work are vital for our community, as older LGBTQ+ people face heightened risks of health complications, discrimination, financial insecurity, lack of family support, difficulty securing long-term care, housing, and more.

SAGE is more than just an organization; it’s a movement of loving, caring activists dedicated to providing services and support to older members of the LGBTQ+ community who refuse to be invisible. 

What are some of the distinct challenges faced by LGBTQ+ older adults compared to younger generations, and what are some of the most common misconceptions about them?

Older LGBTQ+ people grew up during a time when there were few, if any, protections and often faced discrimination and violence with little to no recourse. LGBTQ+ older adults, especially older transgender people of color, were at the forefront of the Stonewall Uprising, often credited as the start of the present-day LGBTQ+ rights movement. Just as we honor the histories and experiences of LGBTQ+ older adults, we also lift up the experiences of LGBTQ+ younger generations and the paths they continue on for justice and equity. 

A common misconception is that LGBTQ+ older adults become less active and engaged as we age. At SAGE, we know this is not true, as LGBTQ+ older adults refuse to be invisible and continue to step up and remain active in their communities. 

What advice do you have for Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) and other aging services providers to effectively serve LGBTQ+ older adults?

Area Agencies on Aging and other aging services are essential partners in the work of LGBTQ+ equity. SAGE encourages aging services to commit to LGBTQ+ inclusive services by engaging in outreach to LGBTQ+ older adults, collecting data on their needs, and evaluating how they are meeting those needs. These steps are also critical requirements of the 2020 reauthorization of the Older Americans Act. SAGE supports these efforts with technical assistance and training through the National Resource Center on LGBTQ+ Aging and SAGECare training program. 

How can aging services providers balance what can appear to be conflicting objectives: respecting an individual's right to privacy but also asking the questions necessary to provide LGBTQ+ competent assistance or support?

Every day, we provide support based on the unique needs of the people we serve. Service providers can learn more about the person they are serving by asking demographic questions, including their race, ethnicity, education background, income, relationship status, emergency contact information, and gender identity and orientation.

It’s essential for aging service providers not to assume everyone identifies as heterosexual or cisgender. When these assumptions are wrong, they can affect access to services. Providing older adults the opportunity to identify their relationship status, sexual orientation, and gender identity is not a conflicting objective, but rather a sign of respect and inclusivity. As with any other demographic question, answering these questions should remain voluntary.

For more information on this critical topic, see the best practice guide, Inclusion Questions for Older Adults: A Practical Guide to Collecting Data on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

NYSOFA has strongly encouraged AAAs and their partners to become SAGECare certified. Can you tell us a bit about the process, what it entails, and how an aging services provider can pursue this certification?

SAGECare provides training and consulting on LGBTQ+ aging to aging service providers. The training is an opportunity to expand, transform, and elevate the person-directed services that your agency already provides. By completing SAGECare training, organizations earn a SAGECare credential and join more than 600 organizations across the country in showing their commitment to LGBTQ+ equity and inclusion. AAAs and aging service providers can learn more about SAGECare at; complete the Contact Us form to connect with the SAGECare team and design a training package that is right for you. AAAs may qualify for a free-of-charge monthly webinar series in partnership with the National Resource Center on LGBTQ+ Aging as an added benefit.