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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Factors influencing seniors’ community projects: a descriptive and interpretive analysis Berry, Barbara J.


Seniors involved in community projects contribute to improving the quality of life of older Canadians. This field study yielded an inventory and description of project accomplishments, factors influencing seniors' projects, as well as resources and strategies used by seniors' groups. One hundred and fifty-eight members of twenty seniors’ groups participated in focus group discussions about their projects. Four questions guided the interviews:(i) What are the accomplishments of your group? (ii) What factors facilitate your groups' accomplishments? (iii) What resources and strategies do you use? (iv) What are the barriers facing your seniors' group? Eighty percent of the groups were involved in service projects, 10% were focused on self improvement/personal growth and 10% were focused on social issues. Groups were located in and around Vancouver, B. C. Accomplishments included developing health, social and educational programs for seniors, building networks, and developing committed working groups. Groups identified 27facilitating factors; fifteen factors identified by more than half of the groups formed four categories: (i) building an organization; (ii) a sense of community; (iii) network contacts; and (iv) community-based problem-solving. Groups identified fifteen hindering factors; similarly, nine mentioned by more than half of the groups fell into four themes: (i) difficulty acquiring funds; (ii) lack of volunteers; (iii) intergroup relations; (iv) intragroup tensions. Of the 15 categories of resources reported, human resources are seen as the most important. Similarly, of the15 strategies used by seniors' groups, networking is key. Content analysis of interview transcripts revealed ten subthemes about senior involvement in projects: (i) seniors' groups as vehicles for companionship and belonging; (ii)awareness of marginalized social status; (iii) volunteering and advocacy; (iv) socioeconomic differences between younger and older seniors; (v) service strategies for involving seniors; (vi) role differences between senior volunteers and professionals; (vii) reliance on staff; (viii) acknowledging seniors' expertise; (ix) hierarchical board structure; and(x) dissatisfaction with funding criteria. Three conclusions illuminate challenges which seniors’ groups must address. First, funding criteria for seniors’ projects perpetuates service-oriented groups that depend on government funding and rely on paid staff. Second, differences in roles and status between professionals and seniors makes collaboration difficult. Third, funding agencies requiring formalized project structure and criteria inhibit senior involvement in such groups. Adult educators must employ collaborative and participatory strategies, and must be sensitive to conditions both obvious and not so obvious which influence the workings of seniors' groups.

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