Women » Features

Edie Windsor Honored at "Eight Over Eighty" Gala

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Friday March 7, 2014

On March 5, nearly 500 New Yorkers came together to honor 84-year-old LGBT trailblazer Edie Windsor, who was among those celebrated at Jewish Home Lifecare's "Eight Over Eighty" gala in New York City, held at the Mandarin Oriental New York.

"With 30 percent of the U.S. population expected to reach 80 or older by 2030, this exciting new event is especially timely," said Dr. Audrey Weiner, President and CEO of Jewish Home Lifecare. "Perhaps more importantly, 'Eight Over Eighty' captures what Jewish Home Lifecare is all about -- celebrating the vitality of older adults, honoring their lives and respecting their individuality. We look forward to many more years of 'Eight Over Eighty' tributes, both at gala events like this and in our interactions with the men and women for whom we are privileged to care every day."

The event also honored Dominic Chianese, Richard Eisner, Emily & Eugene Grant, Klara & Larry Silverstein and Joan Wachtler, honored for their contributions to entertainment, business, real estate, eldercare, civil rights advocacy and philanthropy.

With Eight over 80, Jewish Home Lifecare celebrated what it means to lead lives of consequence and inspiration, as humorous and moving video vignettes throughout the evening highlighted the honorees' accomplishments in business, philanthropy, real estate development, education and human rights.

The event raised more than $1.25M for the group's 20-story Living Center of Manhattan, which will change the way New Yorkers are cared for in advanced age. By 2030 there will be more people over the age of 65 in New York than children in kindergarten, and many are determined to spend their golden years in the Big Apple.

"I dare say most of us want to age like New Yorkers," said Weiner. "We all have our own ideas of what that means, but for me, I’ve spent my life in New York and I want to live and enjoy my later years here."

As part of their changing priorities, the 165-year-old leading provider of long-term care for older adults has been making a full-throttled effort to become a place where LGBT elders can live openly and proudly, treated with the respect to which they, like all human beings, are entitled.

The issue is critical. A 2011 survey conducted by the National Senior Citizens Law Center revealed that fewer than 25 percent of LGBT older adults felt they could be open about their identities with the staff of their long-term care facilities.

But Jewish Home Lifecare has partnered with the national organization SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders), which honored Jewish Home Lifecare with its SAGE Aging Services Leadership Award in October. Together they are working on a multi-year, institution-wide training program to make sure every single staff member understands and is sensitive to the needs and concerns of LGBT residents.

That Jewish Home’s "cultural competency" is already in a good place is clear from the plans for the new residence that will open in 2018. It is being developed as a GREEN HOUSEĀ® facility, meaning that the focus, in design and operation, will be on dignity and autonomy for all residents in all things.

Green HouseĀ® facilities operate as collections of small, nurturing households (apartments), each with individual bedrooms/baths clustered around a shared living/dining space. Among the 22 households in the new facility will be an all-LGBT apartment that LGBT adults can opt for if they wish -- the first time such an option has been available at a skilled nursing facility in NYC.

Long overlooked, aging LGBT adults face distinct challenges. Most LGBT elders live alone, they are less likely to have partners or adult children to care for them and advocate on their behalf, and they often face discrimination in health insurance, medical care, social services and housing. Unlike married heterosexual couples, LGBT elders living in nursing homes do not usually have the right to stay in the same room.

"Organizations like ours need to step up and be ready to serve the fastest growing segment of our population," said Weiner. "There can be no more ’business as usual’ when it comes to aging. The numbers are too high, the stakes are too great, and the lives are too sacred."

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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