AgeWell Pittsburgh credentialed for its care of LGBTQ+ older adults

'We recognize that there is cultural difference when working with LGBTQ+ older adults in comparison to their younger counterparts'

Originally published by our partners at the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle.

AgeWell Pittsburgh has long prided itself on caring for older adults. To best serve that demographic, the collaboration of staff from the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, Jewish Family and Community Services and Jewish  Association on Aging undertook additional training and certification.

Upon completion of that, AgeWell announced last week that it received the SAGECare credential for demonstrating competency in caring for LGBTQ+ older adults. SAGECare is a division of SAGE, an organization that has served and  advocated for LGBTQ+ older adults since 1978.

AgeWell is among only a “handful of organizations to complete the platinum level credential for SAGECare LGBTQ+ Cultural Competency Training,” Sharon Feinman, division director of AgeWell at the JCC, said.

Completing the training was a necessary step toward best serving “all older adults in our community,” Feinman continued. “We recognize that there is cultural difference when working with LGBTQ+ older adults in comparison to their younger counterparts, largely in part to the robust history of the LGBTQ+ community, as they have fought for equal rights and to be recognized across aging services.”

The training enabled AgeWell staffers to understand the “unique needs and concerns of LGBTQ+ older adults and guide them in providing the best possible person-directed care,” said Laura Cherner, director of the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

Topics covered included terminology, history, concerns among LGBTQ+ older adults, health disparities, issues regarding identity, creating inclusive environments for transgender individuals, incorporating LGBTQ+ person-directed care, legal protections, organizational resources and best practices, Cherner said.

After AgeWell staffers and the Federation recognized a communal need, the Federation approved a grant covering training and credentialing costs.

“The grant was $2,154, and the Jewish Federation provided some coordination and facilitation as well,” Adam Hertzman, Federation’s director of marketing, said.

AgeWell is an annual recipient of Federation support.

“The funding for AgeWell that our Federation gives is approximately $150,000 annually, and the majority of this money comes from a block grant from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation to support human services,” Cherner said.

“Our vision is to make everyone in Jewish Pittsburgh feel supported, included and inspired,” Jeff Finkelstein, Federation’s president and CEO, said. “Sometimes that requires getting expert support to ensure that staff at our Jewish agencies and synagogues know how to make everyone feel included.”

Stefanie Small, AgeWell representative for JFCS, praised the training and said it “allowed us to know even more about the lives that LGBTQ+ seniors have lived and how best to help them continue to experience life at its fullest.”

The training “provided pertinent education to staff in different disciplines in order to better serve a diverse group of seniors in Allegheny County,” Nadine Kruman, AgeWell representative for the JAA, said.

Alexis Mancuso, an AgeWell representative for the JCC, said the organization has long served local area seniors: Engaging in the SAGECare training, ensured that “we continue to serve theolder adults in our community with comfort,  understanding and care.”

As part of the credentialing, 80% of AgeWell employees completed one hour of LGBTQ+ aging training and 80% of executives and administrators completed four hours of LGBTQ+ aging training.

“This training provided an excellent opportunity to advance AgeWell Pittsburgh as a leading aging services organization in the region for LGBTQ+ older adults,” Lily Wein, Federation’s manager of planning and impact, said. The Federation was pleased to work “with its partners to deliver the highest standards of care to older adults in our community and ensure that all feel welcomed and supported.”