On Saturday, June 10th, Hebrew SeniorLife was proud to celebrate inclusivity and equality by participating in the Boston Pride Parade. About 30 HSL staff, their family members, and seniors marched under beautiful blue skies and with spirits high. HSL was honored to participate – and to sponsor the LGBT Senior Pride Coalition’s annual Silver Party for LGBT seniors earlier in the week – as part of our commitment to celebrating diversity and honoring LGBT elders.
Irene Kingsbury, an Orchard Cove resident, was thrilled to take part in her first Pride Parade. “I wanted to go in honor of gay friends and family members, and in memory of a young man I knew who died from AIDS,” she says. “My children encouraged me to do it, they were very proud of me. It was one of the best days I’ve had – just incredibly heart-warming.”
The response from the crowd to seeing Hebrew SeniorLife – and especially the team’s chants of “Call your Grandma!” – was encouraging for all who marched. Irene, who is hard of hearing, said that her fellow marchers said the crowd cheered wildly at the sight of a senior in the group. “I was walking with one hand on a cane and another holding someone’s arm. I didn’t have a free hand to wave back but I really wanted to!”
Abby Stevens, HR Coordinator at the Roslindale campus, served as co-marshal of HSL’s Parade efforts. “It was important for me to see all the smiles in the crowd, to hear their cheers as I ran past them, and to high five as many people as possible and tell them how beautiful they are,” Abby says. “For so long, I was told by everyone around me that there was something horribly wrong with people like me. So seeing all of those beautiful faces and hearing the masses cheering just for me, in some ways, it healed some of the trauma that all of us who are a part of the LGBTQ community face in some form or another.”
David Calnan, Senior Retirement Counselor at Orchard Cove, believes that as one of Massachusetts’ largest employers, Hebrew SeniorLife has a responsibility to show its support for the LGBTQ community. “Our business is caring for people – regardless of their background or faith. Participating in the Pride Parade shows that we care about people, no matter what.”
David was taken by how memorable the day was. “I’ve never been in a parade, and this was so much better than I anticipated. It was unbelievable. The roars from the crowd carried us.”
Abby also noted the significance of a senior services organization showing its commitment to inclusion. “It’s important for HSL to show Boston through the Parade and continued efforts that we are a community that fully supports our seniors, and they won’t ever have to choose between coming out or staying out and their quality of life and treatment in the health care community. It’s also important for HSL to show our employees that we are proud of who they are.”
Irene, for one, hopes to be back next year. “It was important for me to show my support. It was a very exciting day – I look forward to being a part of it again!”