Gay City News: Queens Center for Gay Seniors fosters inclusive atmosphere for LGBTQ older adults

Gay City News: Queens Center for Gay Seniors fosters inclusive atmosphere for LGBTQ older adults | December 2023: A warm, inviting atmosphere engulfed the room on Dec. 20 at the Queens Center for Gay Seniors in Jackson Heights, where dozens of older adults from around the borough joined together for an enriching afternoon of activities, games, discussions, and goodies to take home. They were eagerly awaiting their much-anticipated annual holiday party that same week.

At the entrance of the center sat a table adorned with informational pamphlets and other resources — most of which featured rainbow colors and inclusive messaging catered to the LGBTQ community. A large banner painted in the colors of the Rainbow Flag and Trans Flag was perched prominently on display on the other side of the room at the center, which is located at the Jewish Center for Jackson Heights at 37-06 77th St. 

While many senior centers take a generic approach, the Queens Center for Gay Seniors — which is a program of Queens Community House — draws members in large part because it is specifically tailored to serve LGBTQ older adults. Members stay deeply engaged thanks to a fulfilling daily itinerary that includes offerings such as art and anti-fraud classes, computer lessons, demographic-based groups such as a trans-specific one, workout sessions, games, and an intimate group discussion touching on the schedule, important topics of the day, or activities at the center. There are also affordable meal options for members as well as friendly visiting services. They even have programming about the LGBTQ history of Queens.

“We’ve existed since the ‘90s, but recently got funded through the City of New York as an innovative senior center,” said Bert Shankle-Reyes, who is the director of Queens Center for Gay Seniors. Shankle-Reyes said in recent years the city set out to provide an LGBTQ-oriented senior center in every borough, and although SAGE — a large provider of services for LGBTQ older adults — has taken the lead on centers in four boroughs, the Queens Center for Gay Seniors was tasked with covering Queens, giving it a unique role in the city’s quest to serve queer older adults.

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