New tool release – Engaging Older Women in your Community: A Promising Practices Guide for Women’s and Senior Serving Organizations

12 October 2017

By Krista James

Co-authored by Raissa Dickinson

Engaging Older Women in your Community is a promising practices tool developed as an outcome of the Older Women’s Dialogue Project (OWDP). The publication is intended to support your agency to anticipate and address structural barriers to the participation of older women in community initiatives aimed at legal and policy change. We include key questions to explore, tips for enhancing organizational capacity to include older women, and examples from our experience throughout the OWDP. All of the ideas contained in this resource reflect what we learned through our work with older women living in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. The quotations are the words of older women who shared their experiences with us.

Older women contribute enormously to our communities, through paid and unpaid work, caregiving, volunteering, and much more. They also bring great knowledge and experience to their work. However, many older women also experience barriers to their well-being that impact on their ability to participate in community initiatives. This guide identifies strategies for engaging older women in meaningful, older women-led volunteering as a method to combat systemic inequalities against older women, and support the leadership potential of older women.

The guide will be useful to staff working in the women’s sector, seniors sector, and volunteer organizations, and also to practitioners working in research, community development, program development, policy, and law reform, and in general, for anyone working with older women in Canada.

The Older Women’s Dialogue Project

The OWDP was born out of a concern that the perspectives of older women are often missing from discussions of aging policy and law reform. The purpose of the OWDP is to close the gap between aging and gender in law and policy, and give voice to the experiences of older women. The OWDP explores:

  • What are the pressing law and policy issues impacting older women?
  • What can we do to address these barriers to quality of life for older women?

With these goals in mind, the Canadian Centre for Elder Law and our project partner West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund held consultation focus groups involving over 460 older women living in the Lower Mainland, engaging women from nine different linguistic communities. To date we have published two consultation reports:

We also worked with four communities of older women (Indigenous women, women with disabilities, immigrant women and elder lesbians and queer women) to create tools that take action to address barriers to well-being they identify as most pressing. The women developed brochures, videos, petitions and other tools to help people better understand their experiences, and to support change in law and policy. Learning as we went, the OWDP developed an approach to engaging older women in law and policy change.


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