"What We Do for One, We Do for All"

Jeremiah Mora & AARP are Transforming Aging for the LGBTQ Community

Note: This blog post is part of a series featuring community members that will be honored at the Transformation event on September 30, which is a fun and inspiring brunch that celebrates the power to transform lives in the LGBTQ community. Get Tickets >

Jeremiah Mora, AARP Colorado’s Associate State Director of Community Outreach, has always valued building relationships with older adults. It’s something he learned growing up in a small town in a neighborhood with very few kids on the block.

“How I got started with the older generation is I grew up in a small town, in Leadville, and I was the youngest person on the street I was raised on. All my neighbors were in their 50s, 60s, 70s. So, I had all these grandparents around, and they really looked after me, and taught me so much,” he says.

Jeremiah remembers learning about Alzheimer’s by helping to find a neighbor who was out in a snow storm in nothing but his underwear. Another neighbor taught him piano, a passion that stayed with him as he got older and took lessons in high school.

“I love the volunteers. They are family. The colleagues I have here have become family, too.”

When he started with AARP, Jeremiah wasn’t sure how long he would stay with the organization. Initially drawn to their offer to pay for grad school, he figured that he would stay only for a couple of years.

That was 17 years ago. “After two years, it was just empowering. I love the volunteers. They are family. The colleagues I have here have become family, too,” he says.

Jeremiah has seen a lot of change since being with AARP, but at its core, the work remains the same. “It’s about empowering those 50+ to age with dignity. That part never changes. As our founder said, ‘what we do, we do for all,’ and that was in the 1950s. It was so forward thinking at the time, wanting everyone to age with dignity.”

AARP LGBTQ Advisory Group
AARP Office Denver

Left: Jeremiah Mora meets with members of an advisory group for LGBTQ older adults. Right: The administrative offices for AARP Colorado display their mission and vision.

This concept is fundamental to AARP’s mission, underlying their decision to focus on key areas in serving older adults such as: isolation, livable communities, and caregiving. It’s also a big part of why working with The Center felt like such a natural partnership.

“We got started with The Center, and it just seemed like a perfect fit. We couldn’t believe that we weren’t working with The Center already,” Jeremiah says. “There was so much overlay and many opportunities for us to provide different trainings and educational opportunities to the community.”

It’s a relationship that is a true collaboration in every sense of the word, with both organizations learning from one another to better serve older adults. AARP has supported new offerings for The Center’s SAGE of the Rockies program, such as driver’s safety courses and free tax aide each spring, which have brought new members through The Center’s doors.

“We can’t say enough about the partnership,” says Reynaldo Mireles, SAGE of the Rockies Program Manager. “AARP supports so many programs that really bring our older community members together, things like the Lunch & Learn Series and our annual holiday luncheon. Being able to share a meal and have those important conversations has a big impact. We can see that people leave feeling empowered and less isolated.”

AARP’s partnership with The Center in Colorado has also impacted their organization on national level, as well. Jeremiah recalls the learning experience that AARP had after the first time they hosted a “Benefits Check-Up” at The Center. “We realized the application was not welcoming to the LGBTQ community. It had language like Mr./Miss, language that could offend the transgender community. So, we wanted to make it a welcoming application.”

This led to the organizations working collaboratively on a new application that was rolled out nationally, and lead to AARP creating a new version of their “Prepared to Care” handout for the LGBTQ community.

“I hope that we can build up connecting the younger generation to those 50+, so that the history is not lost, and it’s celebrated, appreciated, and respected. That’s big!”

Looking to the future, Jeremiah hopes that the organizations can continue to collaborate and “think outside the box,” as they have in the past. An LGBT Historical Walking Audio Tour produced in conjunction with The Center’s LGBTQ History Project was just short-listed for an international travel and tourism award. Cultural competency trainings for care givers and inter-generational programs that reduce isolation are also new opportunities to increase collaboration moving forward, as well.

“The inter-generational conversation, what it does, is it really helps to alleviate isolation for those 50+ who might not have such a strong network of community. That has a huge impact on their quality of life,” Jeremiah says. “I hope that we can build up connecting the younger generation to those 50+, so that the history is not lost, and it’s celebrated, appreciated, and respected. That’s big!”

Jeremiah understands this first-hand, having found inspiration from the older LGBTQ adults that he works with. “I was in a mining community where it was not something that was talked about. When I was hearing stories about older individuals coming out, it was so inspiring to see them with what they struggled through and how they were able to now truly be who themselves, it was an inspiration. How could I not want to empower these individuals or help people be true to themselves?”

And, in the end, it’s seeing people changed by making connections that makes Jeremiah’s work with AARP the most rewarding. He thinks about a gentleman he recently met at The Center, hosting a Care Map workshop.

“He thought he didn’t have a network,” Jeremiah says. “And, after that, he realized he did. That was a connector for him to realize that he wasn’t as alone as he thought he was. When I see people who find those opportunities or those resources that they might not have, then they know it’s going to be okay.”