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Program Offers Coffee And Conversation To Combat Social Isolation For Older LGBT Pittsburghers

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The Persad Center on Butler Street in Lawrenceville hosts regular sessions for their SAGE program, which is aimed at bringing together older LGBT people living in Pittsburgh.

Older LGBT people are more likely to suffer from cognitive loss and dementia, according to a new study from the University of California San Francisco

To counter those problems, the mental health clinic Persad Center in Lawrenceville hosts regular meetings where older LGBT people can connect and increase their regular social interactions.

The group is called Western Pennsylvania SAGE and it’s part of the nationwide program SAGE, which stands for Service and Advocacy for LGBT Elders. At meetings, coordinator Kathi Boyle said members talk to each other about everything from movie reviews to how to find LGBT-friendly senior housing. These conversations are important, Boyle said, because many older LGBT individuals have gone back into the closet due to worries about being mistreated.

“The fear comes from the fact that my generation grew up in a time when you simply could not be gay,” Boyle said. “People didn’t talk about it, you lost your job, you lost your children, you lost your home.”

Studies have shown that older LGBT individuals are 60 percent more likely to live alonethan their heterosexual peers, which can be due to the fact that many didn’t have children or that their family has rejected their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“For many of them, we are the only people that they talk to in a week that understand that they are gay,” Boyle said.

The drop-in sessions are every Tuesday morning from 8:30 a.m. - 12 p.m. and every other Thursday evening from 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Katie Blackley is a digital editor/producer for 90.5 WESA and 91.3 WYEP, where she writes, edits and generates both web and on-air content for features and daily broadcast. She's the producer and host of our Good Question! series and podcast. She also covers history and the LGBTQ community.