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Older Women Living Alone (OWLA): Understanding and optimising wellbeing and aged care services

Research Priority: Combatting loneliness and social isolation
Researchers: Rajna Ogrin, Colette Browning, Jo Enticott, Emma Renehan, Marissa Dickins, Judy Lowthian, Georgina Johnstone, Angela Joe, Duncan Mortimer, Angelo Iezzi
Research partners: Centre for Health Economics, Monash University
Study population: Home and Community Support clients and community members
Funding support: Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation – Eldon & Anne Foote Trust (Innovation Grant 2016)

This project aimed to optimise the wellbeing of older women who live alone, through co-creation of new strategies that enhance their independence while living in the community. As Australian women age, they are more likely than men to live by themselves. They are also at greater risk of poverty and homelessness, which can lead to poorer health and quality of life. There are limited services currently available to support older women to remain living by themselves independently.

This two-year mixed-methods project comprised several interlinked components including a systematic review, analysis of home-nursing data and interviews with older women. The findings from these three components provided information about the interventions already evaluated in this space, the demographics and profile of older women living alone and the barriers and enablers to service access.

We collated and presented this information during forums held with older women living alone and service providers. This was used to co-create evidence-based interventions and strategies that address the service and supports needed to optimise health, wellbeing, quality of life and support independence.

  1. Handy help: Someone to do small tasks such as change a lightbulb and larger tasks such as spring clean or garden clean-up
  2. Volunteer drivers: Private vehicles, with no restriction or reason for travel (not just medical) or time spent at activity
  3. Exercise buddies: Find-a-buddy service to match older women to an exercise buddy with similar needs and interests


Ogrin, R. (2019). What older women living alone (OWLA) need to maintain independence. Paper presented at the Social Connection in Older Age symposium, Melbourne, Australia.

Ogrin, R. (2019). What older women living alone (OWLA) need to maintain independence. Paper presented at the Social Connection in Older Age symposium, Brisbane, Australia.

Johnstone, G (on behalf of OWLA & POWER teams). (2019). Co-designing volunteer peer-support services to assist older women who live by themselves. Paper presented at the Volunteering Victoria 2019 State Conference, Melbourne, Australia.