Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Social Welfare


Nancy Giunta

Committee Members

Michelle Fine

Mark McBeth

Venessa Fabbre

Subject Categories

Community-Based Research | Gender and Sexuality | Gerontology | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Race and Ethnicity | Social Justice | Urban Studies and Planning


Age-Friendly Cities, Aging, Intersectionality, LGBTQ+, Participatory Action Research, Queer Gerontology


Background and aims: The global population is aging and becoming more culturally diverse. As such, scholars, practitioners, and policymakers are expected to think critically about strategies to improve the quality of life of people as they age. In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the Age-Friendly Cities movement to improve the well-being and meaningful engagement of older adults living in the community. New York City (NYC) was the first city in the world to be designated “age-friendly” by the WHO, and is possibly viewed as a model for other cities to emulate. Few empirical studies have examined the age-friendly cities movement from an intersectional lens inclusive of sexuality, gender, race, ethnicity, class, disability, and neighborhood. The aim of this dissertation research is to critically examine NYC’s age-friendly policies and program structuring by centering the dreams, desires, and demands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer plus (LGBTQ+) elders of color.

Methods: This multi-methods, three-paper dissertation research employs three distinct qualitative approaches to critically examine NYC’s age-friendly strategic plan. The first paper applies critical discourse analysis to examine over 800 pages of public records on the Age- Friendly NYC initiative from 2007 through 2021. The second paper centers researcher reflexivity to critically analyze my position within the historical context of scientific inquiry involving LGBTQ+ elders of color. The third paper employs ethnographic methods to examine the processes of building a research coalition comprised of LGBTQ+ elders of color to critically examine the meaning of age-friendliness during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Findings: Findings from the first paper illustrate the marginalizing of older people by race, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender in Age-Friendly NYC programming and policies. Findings from the second paper describe a conceptual framework for social scientists interested in healing the epistemic wounds inflicted upon marginalized communities by centering critical reflexivity and restorative justice in knowledge building and sharing. Findings from the third paper highlight the barriers and facilitators of conducting critical Participatory Action Research (PAR) with LGBTQ+ elders of color during Covid-19.

Implications: This research offers a critique of the age-friendly movement by critically analyzing NYC’s age-friendly plan from different methods and points of view. Findings demonstrate serious inequities in who matters and benefits from age-friendly policies and programs rooted in epistemic injustice towards marginalized older adults. This research may help build momentum for a critical turn in age-friendly initiatives by interrogating hidden ideologies and hegemonic structures that limit the potential of the age-friendly movement for marginalized communities like LGBTQ+ elders of color.

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