The findings of the Greater Melbourne Vital Signs 2017 indicated that older women were facing challenges and, in some cases, extreme disadvantage across diverse aspects of their lives.
Between 2012 and 2017, the number of older women couch surfing increased by 83 per cent and a 75 per cent increase in older women sleeping in their cars, presenting at homelessness services.1 Financial security is now the most common factor influencing a person’s decision to retire.2 On top of this, approximately one in ten people aged over 60 experience isolation and loneliness.3
Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation wanted to hear more directly from older women about their lives, the challenges they face and potential solutions.
We commissioned Dr Susan Feldman and Dr Harriet Rademacher to consult with older women and give them a voice on the issues they are facing. The responses have informed our newly released report, Vital Conversations: Giving older women in Greater Melbourne a Voice.
L-R: Dr Susan Feldman, Foundation CEO Catherine Brown and Dr Harriet Rademacher at the Vital Conversations launch.
Social connectedness emerged as the enabler (or barrier) to positive outcomes in housing, financial security, health and wellbeing, and technical literacy.
Social connectedness is not only about participation in the community but also a deep sense of belonging. Connectedness provides the foundation for economic participation leading to financial security and housing affordability, access to and knowledge of digital tools, which help combat isolation and enhance participation in many areas of life including unpaid and paid work and recreation.
Key themes identified in Vital Conversations: Giving older women in Greater Melbourne a Voice.
All these factors together lead to older women having a sense of self-worth as active and valued participants in our community.
Social connectedness is the glue that makes a valued life possible.
What this report also finds is an untapped resource of older women with a great deal to contribute. Some are doing it very tough.
Despite a lifetime working in paid and unpaid roles in the workplace, their families and local communities, the life they experience today is not the later life they expected. For some a stable home is out of reach. Others face financial insecurity. Many of these women feel sidelined and disconnected from mainstream policy development and economic and social opportunities.