Enhancing Wellbeing and Civic Engagement of Immigrant Women Retirees is a two-year SSHRC-funded Community and College Social Innovation Fund project.
Bow Valley College and the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association (CIWA) have partnered to investigate the critical barriers and available supports for retired immigrant women.
With the first of four phases of the project completed in January 2017, over the next year Dr Martha Fanjoy and her team will work collaboratively with research participants and partners to co-create a community-delivered program focused on immigrant women retirees’ wellbeing and engagement.
Recruited with CIWA’s support, individual participants are women who have been retired for a minimum of two years who were employed for a minimum of three consecutive years after arriving in Canada.
By engaging with a significant yet overlooked sector of an aging population the research aims to raise awareness to the needs and potential of retired immigrant women and to create strategies to promote their civic engagement.
The research process and results can help immigrant-serving agencies and community organizations working with seniors to develop, plan, and implement programs for immigrant women. Further, service providers will be able to use, replicate, and adapt the co-creation program strategy, methods, and tools in order to address a number of broad social concerns.
The project’s scholarly outcomes are grounded in the principles of social innovation, participatory program design, and developmental evaluation. In addition to supporting programming and policy specific to older immigrant populations, Enhancing Wellbeing and Civic Engagement of Immigrant Women Retirees speaks to the intersectional vulnerabilities of being a woman, immigrant, and senior while significantly contributing to the limited knowledge base on retired immigrant women in Canada.
Current research about the impacts of immigration on aging is sparse, especially in Canada in spite of simultaneously experiencing a rapidly growing population due to immigration and a broadly aging population creating a new demographic of immigrant seniors.
The data collection phase of Enhancing Wellbeing and Civic Engagement of Immigrant Women Retirees begins to address the gendered experiences of immigrant women seniors. It provides a foundation that aims to address the need for an innovative, integrated approach to seniors which acknowledges their strengths, diverse cultural backgrounds, socio-economic contexts, gender differences, and immigration experiences.
Phase I – Data Collection Milestones
(July 2016– February 2017)
- Research team hired and trained
- Literature review complete
- Data collection: i) 25 in-depth interviews with immigrant women retirees, followed by targeted participant observation and ii) 13 stakeholder interviews
- Data Analysis: i) Participant interviews transcribed and ii) Interview coding in progress
- Knowledge Dissemination: i) Presentation to University of Calgary Faculty of Social Work Age Friendly Communities Class (January, 2017), ii) Brown Bag Lunch presentation at Bow Valley College (February, 2017), and iii) Presentation at the annual Metropolis Conference (March, 2017)
Initial analysis of the collected data reveals the importance of applying an intersectional lens to ensure that the challenges and contributors to wellbeing raised by the women interviewed are never considered to be the result of single, distinct factor.
Being mindful of an intersectional lens reminds researchers to move beyond static, homogenizing categories of “immigrant “and “women” to analyse how these identities intersect and overlap with other factors such as ethno-cultural background, language skills, education, employment history, year of immigration, and family composition. Extending beyond the individual experience, this early insight asks the research team to consider how these factors intersect and interact with the existing structures and systems that impact immigrant women retirees’ daily lives. By exploring how these intersecting factors shape individual and group experiences the research team is well positioned to recommend policy and programs with outcomes designed to improve and sustain the well-being of immigrant women retirees.
Transitioning to Phase II includes working with a smaller group of participants to co-learn from the research findings and experiences to co-create a community-based initiatives.