Experiences of Community Organizations Providing Services Sup ...

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Abstract

Community organizations play a key role in reaching out to diverse populations of older adults to address their unmet social participation needs, including in times of crisis (e.g., pandemic) and beyond. It is important to learn from their experiences (challenges, strategies used) to improve preparedness for future crises and strengthen the post-pandemic adaptation of these organizations. This study documented the experiences of community organizations providing social participation services for older adults during the first eighteen months of the pandemic. A descriptive qualitative study was conducted, with data collected at two time points, August 2020 (T1) and August 2021 (T2). Fifteen of the twenty-three participants completed interviews at both time points. From T1 to T2, community organizations faced challenges in adapting services to meet the evolving needs of a heterogeneous population while managing the challenges posed by the digital divide, managing organizational challenges, and adapting to changing public health measures and their social implications. Their strategies evolved from an urgent response to basic needs (T1) to diversifying the solutions used (both technological and non-technological) to promote older adults’ active engagement in services (T2). From T1 to T2, they also strengthened communication bridges and partnerships. Having advocated for older adults’ rights during the pandemic, they emphasized, particularly at T2, the importance of empowering them (e.g., through intergenerational initiatives). These findings underscore the need to use effective mechanisms to support cross-sectoral collaboration in order to identify, implement, and sustain the promising initiatives that emerged during the pandemic, particularly in sectors at risk of experiencing inequities in accessing services.