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A gaggle of raging grannies: the empowerment of older Canadian women through social activism

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This article explores a particular expression of social activism by older Canadian women to consider its implications for later life learning. 'Older women', despite their heterogeneity, have tended to be pathologized as a part of the 'problem' of ageing and languishing welfare societies--i.e. stereotyped as passive recipients of welfare and healthcare services. Yet, they can also be seen as part of the 'answer' to the challenges societies like Canada face. Given the combination of a greying population and the growing tide of citizens' participatory democracy, it is timely and important to shed light on older women's social activism. Based on document analysis and fieldwork with the Raging Grannies in Canada, this qualitative case study examines the influence of activism on women's later life learning and development from an interdisciplinary perspective including adult development, critical gerontology, women's studies and psychodrama. Analysis focuses on the Grannies' motivations, the strategies they employ in their activities and the process of learning and changes they say they undergo. Themes emerging from document analysis, interviews and participant observation of 15 Grannies in Ontario are divided into three categories: (1) 'Raging Grannies' as a self-defined social role; (2) the Grannies' dual-layered mask strategies; and (3) their collective identity and sense of empowerment. These do much to explain the successes of Raging Grannies' activism as a social movement, which fosters older women's creative energy, critical awareness and self-assurance despite their physical and psychological problems in later life. Implications of the Raging Grannies' movement help us reconsider current trends in later life learning, which tend overlook the needs and abilities of women in the third age.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Toronto Canada

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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