older single women reimagine home

older single women living in housing stress and at risk of homelessness are silent, invisible and well behaved. Liz Lennon 2017 paper

I haven’t written on this site for a few years and will be rectifying that over the next month.

Moving back to Australia in 2015 after living in Ireland for 21 years has been fraught with challenges including supporting a dear friend through leukemia and grieving her death; not being able to get work in my field of social action research and evaluation; getting low paid part time work that put me in severe rental stress; housesitting in more than 13 homes over 2 years; being accepted to do a PhD to explore innovative and unconventional models for home so older single women can age well and contribute to their community, and not being able to do it because scholarship criteria favour academic track and not real world experience.

It’s been a bumpy ride. Liz Lennon & Bette Davis

I researched and wrote this paper for Lisa Baker MLA Maylands on older single women in WA at risk of homelessness. She used the paper to write a speech she delivered in Parliament in 2017.

Ageing well in community encompasses health, income, housing, transport and a sense of purpose and connection. If you’re financially poor then your quality of life can be lower than people with more finances. An older single woman on a low income and living in housing stress or homeless will not have the same opportunities to age well and contribute to their communities as their wealthier counterparts. Liz Lennon.

In May this year I researched and wrote another paper for Lisa to use as material for a speech in Parliament. It looked at the broader issue of Ageing Well in Community for older Western Australians living in poverty.

About 18 months ago I was invited to be part of the WA steering group for a national research project called Ageing on the Edge. The steering group was a very good mix of NGO’s, government reps, academics and women with lived experience.

We launched the report at an event in Parliament House hosted by Lisa Baker MLA and launched by Simone McGurk Minister for Community Services, Children’s Interests and Women’s Interests, and I was asked to give a speech. It’s very forthright and challenges a lot of perceptions that I see embedded in government and ngo policy making, funding and service delivery directions.

It’s worth a read.

The wicked problem of older single women living in poverty, severe housing stress or homeless is a disgrace in a society that talks about being fair and just.

This is a human rights issue. If it was predicted that more than 500,000 people in Australia would be severely impacted by ebola or swine flu over the next 20 years we would see a government, private and public sector response that was integrated, coordinated, collaborative, innovative and hugely well funded.

Guess what? It’s predicted that more than 500,000 older single women will be living in poverty and at risk or homeless over the next 15 to 20 years in Australia.

That’s no reward for their life long efforts.

I see an Australia that is rife with power, gender and economic inequality, that poverty shames and basically ignores hundreds of thousands of people who have often given their lives as unpaid carers, volunteers in community and hard but low paid workers.

I’ve also been interviewed 3 times on different ABC radio programmes and will post links later this week – I’m in bed with a cold at the moment.

House sitting is an option – not a solution to this crisis.

Here’s an ABC radio interview I did about house sitting as an option for women facing homelessness. My core message in that interview was that while house-sitting was great for those who chose the lifestyle, it could hide the true picture of homelessness in Australia. It abrogates governments and NGO’s responsibilities to actually create innovative and fit for purpose options for home so older single women can age well and continue to contribute to their communities.

I joked with Jeff Fiedler, the national research coordinator from HAAG, that being interviewed and asked onto panels as a poor older single woman with lived experience of housing stress and homelessness wasn’t exactly a career move!

I’ve been gathering information, unpaid, for 2 years on examples of intentional housing communities that are led by or focused on older single women and/or people living on low income. I’ve developed a research proposal to create a series of case studies and aggregated learning on design, funding, people process, partnerships, planning changes and outcomes.

I”m keen to see what happens next, for me and for tens of thousands of older single women living in poverty and experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Shifts in perception, shared power and true partnerships with Older Single Women living in poverty are needed if we can begin to call Australia and specifically WA a fair and just society.

Wicked problems are inherently complex, frustrating and are never truly solved. I believe that if you value and perceive older single women living in poverty as powerful partners you’ll invite, and pay us, to collaboratively develop beautiful, affordable, sustainable and connected homes so we can age well and continue to be assets in our communities.

We can work together to reimagine home, with values and principles that respect the diversity of older people living in poverty, so we can all age well in our communities.

That’s what defines a just and fair society.

I’ll be writing more about this issue because it’s very personal to me, and, it’s a social justice issue.

As an older single woman living in poverty and homeless, I refuse to be invisible, silent or well behaved. I may be financially poor but I have a wealth of creative, intellectual and social capital. Liz Lennon

Ageing on the Edge report

Ageing on the Edge speech, Liz Lennon, at launch in WA Parliament September 2019

Older Single Women at risk of homelessness in WA – Liz Lennon. Research paper for Lisa Baker MLA Maylands to use for her speech in Parliament 2017.

Ageing well in community for older Western Australians living in poverty. Research paper by Liz Lennon for Lisa Baker MLA Maylands to use for her speech in Parliament May 12 2019.

ABC online – Homelessness as a housing solution for older single women at risk of homelessness

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