2022 ESL Jefferson Awards: Helping LGBT people ‘live vibrantly at every age’

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Two years ago, longtime activist and advocate Ann Tisher was ready to kick back, and retire.

"At 67, I thought ‘Well, it’s time for me to retire, and go traveling,’" Tisher said.

The travel trailer is in the driveway now. Instead, almost overnight, she pulled together a brand new nonprofit resource, Rainbow Seniors ROC, with a special mission.

"Help a broad array of LGBT people live their best lives as they age," Tisher said. "Our motto is ‘Live vibrantly at every age.’"

When COVID-19 devastated the funding for Rochester’s Out Alliance, shutting down its work for seniors, Tisher said the need for those resources didn’t go away and instead became more acute.

"The bulk of LGBT seniors, 70%, are single," Tisher said. "We are much less likely to have children. Far more likely to live alone, lack the support that you would get from family, extended family and churches."

Now, Rainbow Seniors offers a network of connections, and events like a regular lunch and yoga classes, as well as outreach, "to" seniors. And "for" them.

"You need social supports," Tisher said. "You need socialization. You need advocacy."

Anne Tischer’s work, when so many other sources of help have withered, gets grateful praise.

"Anne is a fireball of energy, and positivity," Tisher said. "She is just a happy person. And it shows in everything she does."

Over the era of COVID and quarantine, Rainbow Seniors has kept communications channels open with a greeting card ministry, making sure people who may be homebound or suffering illnesses get the kind of connection that something like a birthday card can provide.

"If you are alone, and you can’t drive, these things, one card, makes a big difference," Tisher said. "And I know this is true because I get the feedback on it. So… connectedness is huge."

Tischer said rainbow senior’s leadership and fundraising is almost ready for her to finally retire for real this time, although she has no complaints about staying hard at work.

"There are credible studies that show the people who live longest, who are the healthiest, and enjoy life most, are people that do service," Tisher said. "If I had not had this task to do, over the last two years, I would not be… I would not have survived it in this happy, useful, mindset."

News10NBC has been showcasing the people making a difference here in Rochester all week.

Be sure to tune in for our ESL Jefferson Award Special on May 23 at 7:30 p.m. on News10NBC.