What is it about?

In this paper, we outline the results of a comprehensive review of research published on homelessness among older people between 1978 and 2014. We review 'what is currently known' in the field, including the estimated prevalence of homelessness among older people in Canada, pathways into homeless in late life, and differences that exist according to ‘race’, class, gender, ability, health status, and geography. We identify gaps and suggest a policy and practice relevant research agenda on homelessness among older people.

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Why is it important?

The phenomenon of population aging, combined with a contemporary context of declining social protection, means that we can expect to see both a shifting 'age structure' where individuals 'grow old' in situations of homelessness, and an emerging phenomenon where older people without histories of homelessness become homeless for the first time in later life. Yet, at present, serious gaps exist in the understandings and approaches to homelessness in late life. Understanding key concerns and issues can serve as a foundation for research and the development of adequate and effective policies, strategies, and services that target homelessness among older people.


We wrote this paper at the beginning of our funded research project (aginghomelessness.com). Although front-line workers had reported more 'older people' using their services, there was no one source that clearly outlined the state of knowledge in the field, and how this phenomenon was currently explained. Although the attempt to understand homelessness in later life is challenging because it reflects divergent pathways and disadvantages across lives, and is experienced differently across geographic and social locations, we needed a starting point from which to understand the needs of older people who are homeless, and how homelessness itself may be changing as a result of contemporary conditions. We hope that research teams like us will find this a useful foundation upon which to build their research.

Dr Amanda Grenier
McMaster University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: A Literature Review of Homelessness and Aging: Suggestions for a Policy and Practice-Relevant Research Agenda, Canadian Journal on Aging / La Revue canadienne du vieillissement, January 2016, Cambridge University Press,
DOI: 10.1017/s0714980815000616.
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