The Seniors Philanthropy Gap: Examining Social Justice Philanthropy’s Neglect of Age and Aging

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed—and intensified—deep-rooted racial, gender, and class disparities in Canadian society (Siddiqui et al, 2021). In response, philanthropic foundations, as well as the sector at large, instituted significant reforms in grantmaking policy and practice to meet the needs of socially and economically marginalized communities (Saifer et al., 2021). Despite galvanizing much of the sector around equity and social justice grantmaking, however, the pandemic also revealed the extent to which the sector has ignored a large—and growing—segment of the population that faces severe social, economic, and political marginalization: vulnerable seniors.

Grantmaking foundations’ widespread disregard for the social and economic issues faced by vulnerable seniors is increasingly troubling given the ongoing crisis in seniors’ programs and seniors’ care that can be attributed to sustained public policy failures (Molinari & Pratt, 2023). Beyond seniors’ care facilities, however, studies show widening forms of inequality between Canadian seniors and the general Canadian population, especially when viewed in the context of declining public social supports (Biggs, 2014). Moreover, studies in the field of social gerontology highlight how the social and economic challenges tied to aging in Canada are compounded by other forms of marginalization such as poverty, racism, sexism, citizenship status, settler-colonialism, and disability (Beatty & Berdahl, 2011). Responding to this context, the current project seeks to understand this disconnect between the ambitions and mandates of social justice philanthropy, and the sector’s neglect of vulnerable seniors.

The proposed research is being conceptualized as Phase II of two distinct, yet interconnected, PhiLab-funded exploratory projects led by project team members in collaboration with the Mirella and Lino Saputo Foundation (Alalouf-Hall, 2022; Saifer, 2022). While the completed projects generated important theoretical and practical insights regarding the field of philanthropy for vulnerable seniors in Quebec, they both revealed a significant research problem: despite fitting the social justice missions and objectives of many foundations, scarce philanthropic resources are being allocated to this cause relative to other social justice causes.

Centre régional

Axe de Recherche

  • Axe 5: Philanthropie et justice environnementale


Membres de l'équipe

Début du projet

  • Automne 2023

Fin du projet

  • Printemps/été 2024