Document Type

Research Report

Publication Date



aging equity, Boston, people of color, race and discrimination, health outcomes


Gerontology | Health Policy | Race and Ethnicity


The experience of being and becoming older differs substantially based on one’s race, ethnicity, and gender. In the City of Boston, it has never been more critical to strategically pursue greater equity in the aging experience of residents. According to data from the US Census Bureau, the number of Boston residents aged 60 or older increased by more than a third just since 2010 and persons of color now make up half of Boston’s older adults. As well, stakeholders share a growing recognition of the powerful ways in which inequity, racism and discrimination shape health outcomes and the aging experience, amplifying the need to scrutinize and remediate disparities in aging.

The purpose of this report is to examine these intersecting trends and to document disparities experienced by older residents across three major dimensions of healthy aging: economic security, health, and social engagement. The report tells a story of inequities across the life course that together challenge the ability of many people to thrive in later life and contribute to disparities across populations.

While community initiatives, like Age-Friendly Boston, cannot fully remediate the late-life impact of processes that have played out over a lifetime, often spanning communities, states, or countries of residence, it is critical for stakeholders to be aware of the disparities that exist in Boston, and seek to ensure that systems appropriately respond to those disparities. After all, everyone ages. Therefore, to create environments in which all Bostonians can “age strong” it is imperative to address the inequities that shape later life. To do so, we first need to understand the patterns of inequity. In this report we profile older Boston residents and compare the experience of aging in diverse ethnic and racial communities, as a means of summarizing the contours of disparity and identifying targets for intervention. This report also documents substantial disparities in each dimension of healthy aging across racial and ethnic groups.


This report resulted from a collaboration among researchers from six institutes and centers at the University of Massachusetts Boston - the city’s only public university. Together, we describe the significance of the rapidly changing demographics of Boston’s older residents and dimensions of their well-being in later life.

  • THE CENTER FOR DEMOGRAPHIC RESEARCH ON AGING (CSDRA) carries out basic and applied social and economic research on aging and engages in public education on aging policy issues, with an emphasis on economic security, age-friendly communities, senior center innovation and capacity building.
  • THE INSTITUTE FOR ASIAN AMERICAN STUDIES (IAAS) utilizes resources and expertise from the university and the community to conduct research on Asian Americans; to strengthen and further Asian American involvement in political, economic, social, and cultural life; and to improve opportunities and campus life for Asian American faculty, staff, and students and for those interested in Asian Americans.
  • THE INSTITUTE FOR NEW ENGLAND NATIVE AMERICAN STUDIES (INENAS) works to develop collaborative relationships, projects, and programs between Native American tribes and organizations of the New England region so that the New England Native peoples may participate in and benefit from university research, innovation, scholarship, and education.
  • THE MAURICIO GASTÓN INSTITUTE FOR LATINO COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AND PUBLIC POLICY works to inform the public and policymakers about issues vital to Massachusetts’ growing Latino community, and to generate research, information, and analysis for the development of more effective public policies and advocacy for Latino communities.
  • THE WILLIAM MONROE TROTTER INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF BLACK CULTURE aims to address the political, cultural, and socio-economic experiences of Black communities in Massachusetts through critical research, public advocacy, and community engagement. It serves as a thriving intellectual hub in support of social justice for Boston’s Black Diasporas via digital humanities, innovative programs, and local and global collaborations.
  • THE CENTER FOR WOMEN IN POLITICS AND PUBLIC POLICY (CWPP) promotes women’s political leadership through its intersectional graduate programs, policy research and initiatives, and public forums.

Community Engaged/Serving

Part of the UMass Boston Community-Engaged Teaching, Research, and Service Series. //



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