What leadership role do older people play in building better communities? What motivates older people to get involved in community development, and how do they come to be regarded as ‘leaders’? What skills do they draw on?

These and similar questions lie behind this report. The social and economic challenges created by Australia’s ageing population have prompted significant policy debate about productive ageing.

Supporting the participation of older Australians is a key policy platform of all levels of government. 

This study aimed to contribute to the debate by developing a deeper understanding of older residents displaying leadership in community action and community development.

It examined the reasons older people became involved, what knowledge and skills they brought and the benefits they gained from participation. It also looked at barriers to participation and leadership, and how those barriers might be overcome. 

The qualitative study was small and local, centered on an inner city community (‘Beacon’) with a diverse population including severely disadvantaged groups.

The findings shed new light on community involvement and show how older people are leading the way in building a vibrant, active community.

This local study suggests a broader point – namely, that the energy and initiative of older residents are valuable for any community.

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