Philippe Saad, Senior Architect at DiMella Shafer, Presents on LGBTQ+ Senior Housing for Aging and Equity Series

by Adam Felts

The AgeLab’s Aging and Equity series featured Philippe Saad, Principal Architect at the architecture, planning and design firm DiMella Shaffer, who presented on his work designing and developing an LGBTQ+ affordable senior housing community called The Pryde in the Boston neighborhood of Hyde Park. The groundbreaking ceremony at The Pryde took place on June 17th, 2022.

For LGBTQ+ older people, having an accepting and socially integrated community environment can be an essential aspect of their decision-making about housing in later life. In general, older adults often rely on traditional supports to age in place, such as a spouse or partner, children, one’s family of origin, faith community, local community, social community, and social services. But for people who identify as LGBTQ+, especially for those in older generations who came up in eras of intense discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, many of these supports may be less available—with the exception of one’s chosen social community and some degree of social services.

Even today, when activism and advocacy have greatly increased degrees of protection and acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community, much of the community still faces and fears discrimination, especially related to housing. For example, 54 percent of transgender older adults fear that they would have to hide their identity in a public housing environment.

Finally, despite perceptions of gay older adults being typically affluent, LGBTQ+ adults in Massachusetts are more likely to report being in fair or poor health, have difficulty paying for housing or food, suffer from depression, and be at risk of being injured from falling.

The goal of The Pryde is not to discriminate against non-LGBTQ+ older adults—people of all orientations are welcome—but the community includes special amenities targeted toward LGBTQ+ residents to accommodate their needs and make them feel accepted: a specialized community center with curated programming, culturally competent staff and aging services providers, and a targeted branding approach to ensure that all residents and visitors are supportive of LGBTQ+ people.

Additionally, in its design, The Pryde emphasizes the growth and life of social community within the complex. At The Pryde, what constitutes a household includes a resident’s friends and chosen family, in addition to their biological family.

The Pryde is built on the site of an unused Hyde Park public school, which initially posed accessibility challenges in making the development accommodating for older adults. Several historically sensitive modifications were designed to create a fully accessible building. Beneficially, in its location in metropolitan Boston, The Pryde sits in a walkable community with access to public transportation and a commercial district.

“We stand on the shoulders” of prior advocates and activists who worked toward freedoms and protections for the LGBTQ+ community, Mr. Saad said. But there is still work to be done to create welcoming spaces for people who often find themselves on the margins, especially older adults—an enterprise to which The Pryde is one significant contribution.

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About the Author

Photo of Adam Felts
Adam Felts

Adam Felts is a researcher and writer at the MIT AgeLab. Currently he is involved in research on the experiences of family caregivers and the future of financial advice. He also manages the AgeLab blog and newsletter. He received his Master's in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University in 2014 and his Master's of Theological Studies from Boston University in 2019.

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