“Working with COW”: Social Work Supporting Older Women Living in the Community – Journal of Gerontological Social Work


Australia, like all developed Western countries, is experiencing a demographic shift resulting in an increasing proportion of the population being over the age of 65 years. Contrary to stereotypes, the vast majority of older people live independently in communities. This article explores the potential of social work practice informed by community development principles to enable socially disadvantaged older women to live in vibrant and supportive communities, in which they feel safe and are able to access the support services they need. It argues that participation in social action not only builds older women’s well-being but also enables them to become (or continue to be) agents for social change in local communities. Adopting a community-based research methodology, this article draws on a decade of community development practice with the Concerned Older Women’s (COW) Group. This data suggests that community development practice based on participation, empowerment, and social action founded on respectful relationships may accrue significant benefits to individuals and the broader community. This social work practice creates the social conditions to facilitate older women’s capacity to work collectively to achieve social change, challenging ageist stereotypes.

SOURCE: Rawsthorne, Margot; Ellis, Kayleigh  & de Pree, Alison. ““Working with COW”: Social Work Supporting Older Women Living in the Community.” Journal of Gerontological Social Work
Volume 60, 2017 – Issue 1, Pages 32-47

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