The Carolina Aging Alliance — a Raleigh-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit that was originally founded as the Gay & Gray Initiative in 2011 — provides resources, holds events and creates a community for LGBTQ+ adults over 50.
Sharon Kilpatrick, the Triangle interim director for the organization, said it began as a social group, and was connected to the LGBT Center of Raleigh. She said it was a safe place for older adults to socialize and interact.
The program became affiliated with Advocacy & Services for LGBTQ+ Elders (SAGE) USA and was renamed as SAGE Raleigh in 2014, which later became the Carolina Aging Alliance in 2022.
Kilpatrick said the organization works to make sure the older members of the LGBTQ+ community are supported, acknowledged and receiving appropriate services.
“Because while we have all the same needs and problems that any older adult has, our community has some unique situations that we need to have addressed," she said.
Older members of the LGBTQ+ community face a unique set of challenges that can include discrimination, generational divides, a lack of legal protections and social isolation, according to the American Psychological Association.
Karen Stegman, Chapel Hill mayor pro tem, said that because same-sex marriage was legalized relatively recently, many aging adults never married their partners, so they do not have the legal or inheritance protections that other couples and families have.
“So there's really very specific challenges and needs based on the discrimination that exists in our country, in our state,” she said.
Kilpatrick said the organization is volunteer-based and includes a board of directors, as well as regional planning teams located in the Triangle and Triad areas. She said statewide, Carolina Aging Alliance serves between 2,500 and 3,000 people.