Building on Promising Practices across Canada for Housing Older Women Experiencing Abuse

In 2004 Atira opened Ama House, the first and still the only transition house in Canada designed specifically for women aged 55 years and older.

Since its inception, Atira has learned a great deal from its 256 residents about supporting older women experiencing abuse/violence.

While currently there is no inventory of senior-specific shelters for women fleeing violence, we do know there have been various models developed across Canada through different programs and transition houses. We believe it is important all these programs have the opportunity to connect with and learn from each other in order to determine what works, what doesn’t and what could be improved upon. It is imperative the experiences of the women at the transition and safe houses are documented and shared to determine the best promising practices for housing older women who are affected by and fleeing violence and abuse.



Gender-neutral elder abuse programs and women’s transition houses are often not adequately equipped to address older women’s experiences and needs. Studies show that shelters can be too noisy, have no quiet spaces free from children, can be too stressful and be inaccessible for older women with mobility issues. The younger women in the houses are also more likely to be assertive, sometimes making it difficult for older women to get the support they need.



To create a collaboratively developed, pan-Canadian promising practices’ document, as well as a network of existing housing and support programs accessible to older women fleeing abuse. To advocate for positive changes in the external community, including government, which will benefit the lives of older women who are marginalized and vulnerable due to their experiences of violence/abuse; to increase and improve housing and support options for older women fleeing violence/abuse and to heighten Canadians’ collective awareness of the needs of older women experiencing violence/abuse.



This project will benefit communities and organizations, which have developed or plan to develop much needed safe housing for older women needing a safe refuge from violence/abuse. It will also benefit women who so badly need refuge by giving them voice in determining their own successes, as well as telling us what is or isn’t working and how we can improve practices to better meet their needs. It will also influence policy at the local, provincial and national levels in terms of informing and perhaps developing programs and services for older women experiencing violence/abuse.


Progress to date

In June, 2013 a preliminary promising practices document was produced detailing the results of an in-depth, participatory evaluation of two safe, transitional housing sites for women 55 plus: Ama House in Surrey, BC, and SAVA Centre-Ouest in Montreal, Quebec . The goals of the evaluation were to:

  • Gather information regarding the impacts of transition house services designed specifically for seniors in two Canadian locations
  • Identify key principles and practices that lead to successful outcomes

A total of 39 informants took part in interviews or focus groups, including: residents, former residents, staff, managers, community partners, volunteers and directors. The evaluation identified a number of emerging promising practices for housing older women fleeing abuse. It demonstrated that when programs are designed with older women in mind and take into consideration their physical, medical and psycho-geriatric needs, this makes a positive difference for women’s health and well-being.

Atira hired Nota Bene Consulting Group as the evaluation team responsible for producing the preliminary promising practices document.


Going forward

The second part of the project involves producing an inventory of organizations in Canada providing safe or transitional housing to older women who have experienced abuse. Using this inventory, a committee of seven or more organizations will form the cross-Canada advisory committee. The preliminary evaluation will be shared with this committee to be built collaboratively upon to create the draft pan-Canadian promising practices document. The first step will be an in-person committee meeting in Vancouver.

Atira has hired the Canadian Centre for Elder Law as the Writer/Developer of the draft pan-Canadian document.

Updates will be posted as the project progresses.



For more information

If you have any questions or concerns or if you want to be involved, please contact Atira:

Phone: (604) 681-4437


This project is funded by the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program