Board Members and experts

Joke de Ruiter-Zwanikken / Chair

Joke is currently the Chair of OWN, Europe as well as OWN, Netherlands. She was a member of Age Platform Europe’s Council of Administration, and remains a member of its Healthy Aging, Age Friendly Environments, and Adequate Income taskforces. In 2000, she was honoured by Queen Beatrix with the “Orde of Orange Nassau” in recognition of contributions in two areas: to society (local, regional and national), and as carer over 30 years of a disabled woman not related to her.

During her career in social work management, Joke initiated many projects such as homecare for people with dementia and chronic illness; special care for families with “special” children, as well as for persons and children with autism. A particular interest has been the better co-ordination between formal and informal care. She co-founded what became the National Carers’ Association.

Complementing her professional life, she was a board member of a district nursing organization, and a member representing civil society on a regional board of the co-operative Rabo Bank. Other positions held included president of a fund for blind and vision-impaired people; local and regional counselor; and chair of an advisory committee of a local Council on the new Care Law.

Elizabeth Sclater / Secretary General

Elizabeth served in local government for 40 years as a social worker, manager, and equalities and human rights policy officer. During this time, she successfully managed several EU-funded projects linking older women across the European Union and beyond, setting up OWN Europe in 1993, and participating at the 4th World Conference of Women in Beijing in 1995.

Since retirement in 2007, she has maintained her commitment to older women’s issues and has campaigned for the rights of older people – particularly older women – so that their voice is heard in government at local, national, and international level.

Elizabeth is the principal author of the CEDAW shadow report on Older Women for the UK examination in 2013. Currently a Council Member of Age Platform Europe, she is an active contributor to the NGO Committees on Ageing in Geneva and New York.

She represents OWN, Europe on the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People, and campaigns with them for a legally binding United Nations instrument to protect the rights of older people ensuring a gender perspective. In the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June 2019, Elizabeth was appointed an OBE in recognition of services to older women.

Maria Teresa Marziali

Maria Teresa is responsible for the Adult Education Department of AUSER Marche. Previously she gained twenty years’ service in Perugia’s local government educating children, before specialising in adult education (autobiographical writing in particular).

From 1995 to 2005, she was co-ordinator of OWN, Europe followed by a period successfully initiating several European projects, some of which she coordinated, including:
–   Transitions: Self-narration and autobiography as empowerment tools for mature and older people changing direction in their lives
–   Silver Thread: Senior Volunteering.

Since 2010 to date she has been working for Auser, the Italian Association for Active Ageing, supporting cultural activities to be implemented by local groups in Le Marche region. The majority of participants were older women but few of them in leadership positions.  

During 2020 and currently, she coordinates education courses for older people to learn the use of smartphone and expand the use of its functions.  The pandemic we lived and are living urged Auser to help people, especially isolated people, older and alone, to learn how to stay connected, having a virtual social life and accessing services.   A Smartphone School has been created which is participated by older people, women in particular, who own a smartphone but have little or no skills to use it in its many functions. Teachers are Volunteers and the long distance School is now expanded in over twenty villages or cities of Le Marche 

Her published books and booklets include:
– Together towards the future: Local community analysis at the Municipality of Perugia’s V District
– Generazioni in Umbria (si) narrano, Comune di Perugia
– Generazioni nelle Marche (si) narrano, AUSER Marche, Regione Marche.

Maria Petkova

Maria is director of Tulip Foundation since its establishment in 2004 in Sofia Bulgaria. Its mission is to enable social inclusion and participation of all people in society. She has been a council member of AGE platform Europe, as well as on its executive committee for 10 years. Current involvements include providing training on Family Group Conferencing.

On graduation with a Master’s degree in Electronics from the Technical University of Sofia in 1979. Maria worked at the Medical Academy Sofia and the Bulgarian Academy of Science, before serving as an expert at the Office of the Vice President and President of the Republic of Bulgaria between 1992 and 1997. Following that, she was a consultant on various international programmes of the Open Society Foundation Sofia, while also providing consultancy to the World Bank, UNDP and UNICEF. During 2000 – 2001 Maria worked in the Human Development Department of the World Bank Institute, Washington DC. Subsequently she became co-ordinator in Bulgaria of the Dutch Programme of Co-operating Netherlands Foundations for Central and Eastern Europe.

In 2007 HM Queen Beatrix appointed her Knight of the Order of Orange Nassau for supporting others and contributing to a just society.

Renee Laiviera

Renee is the Commissioner of the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) in Malta. She is also a member of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) of the Council of Europe, and Chair of the European Commission Advisory Committee on equal opportunities for women and men.

Her first management appointment in the Malta Public Service was as Director (Women’s Rights) in 1998, followed by other positions on government commissions and committees.

She participated in Malta’s accession process to the European Union with responsibilities in the field of gender equality. In addition, she participated in the drafting of legislation relating to family law, domestic violence, and employment. These were undertaken both in the context of CEDAW, European Directives, and the implementation of gender mainstreaming in the Malta Public Sector.

Up till May 2013, Renee was an Executive Member of the European Women’s Lobby and the Chair of the Malta Confederation of Women’s Organisations. Over the years, she lobbied for the ratification and implementation of the CEDAW in the field of family law, family planning, women’s right to work and support structures, violence against women, employment legislation, and women in decision-making positions.

In March 2007, the Embassy of the United States of America in Malta formally acknowledged her exceptional ‘courage and leadership in advocating for women’s rights and advancement in Malta’. And in 2019, the University of Malta conferred on her the Degree of Master of Letters (Honoris Causa).

Elisabet Cedersund

Elisabet is Professor Emerita in Ageing and Later Life at Linköping University, Sweden where she was one of the founders of the Institute for the Study of Ageing and Later Life, directing it from 2002 to 2004 as well as 2011 to 2016. She is also a Guest Professor in Social Work at Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden. Her research interests mostly concern encounters between citizens and professionals, and older people’s communication in everyday life. Elisabet has co-ordinated several research networks, and organized international workshops and conference sessions around social work research as well as ageing and later life. She has been a board member of OWN, Europe since 2018.

Her publications include articles, chapters, and books on communication in social welfare settings. The most recent include:
Reducing loneliness among older people – who is responsible? (with Agren, A. Ageing & Society, 2020)
Approaches to physical activity at assisted living facilities: from the perspective of older people and physiotherapists. (with Mahrs Träff, A et al in European Journal of Physiotherapy, 2018)
Old age as a market advantage: The example of staffing agencies in Sweden. (with Sundin, E et al in Ageing, Organisations and Management, 2017).

Anne-Sophie Parent

From Sept. 2002 to June 2020 Anne-Sophie was Secretary General of AGE Platform Europe (AGE), a self-advocacy network of some 100 organisations representing some 40 million seniors across Europe in 27 EU Member States, Norway and Switzerland. She retired in July 2020 and joined the Older Women’s Network, Europe where she continues to advocate for equality in old age for both women and men as an expert in some AGE Task Forces. Anne-Sophie is in particular keen to continue promoting gender equality in pension systems and to combat age discrimination in financial services. She remains involved in the Financial Services Users’ Group (FSUG) set up by the European Commission, and chairs the Advisory Board of the Assisted Ambient Living Joint Programme. She represents AGE in the Euro Retail Payment Board to voice older persons’ concerns since this group was established by the European Central Bank in 2014.  Complementing her involvement in AGE, Anne-Sophie Parent has been Secretary General of the European Covenant on Demographic Change since 2016 (volunteer position). This large network brings together 160 subnational public authorities, non-for-profit and profit actors who wish to join forces to promote age-friendly environments in Europe and combat ageism.


Isabella Paoletti  – a contributor to the creation of the OWN, Europe – is currently managing director of the Social Research and Intervention Center, NGO in Perugia, Italy. Her research interests over thirty years have been informed by discourse analysis and ethnomethodology. This research, together with experience initiating and administering intervention projects, resulted in extensive publications, presentations at international conferences, organization of conferences and international panels on gender, aging and care-giving. While at the CLUNL, Universitade Nova de Lisboa in Portugal between 2009 and 2014, Isabella undertook the project Ageing, poverty and social exclusion: An inter-disciplinary study on innovative support services.

Her recent publications include:
–   Being an older women. A study on the social production of identity. Routledge, London; 2020 (reprint)
–  (with Kydds, A, Fleming, A and Hvalič Touzery, S). Exploring terms used for the oldest old in the gerontological literature. Journal of Aging and Social Change, 10(2),53-73 (2020)–  (with Cedersund, E). Introduction to the special issue Processing the case: Storytelling and moral work in professional discursive practices. Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice;10-3, 221-235 (2017)–   Dignity and forth age. in Sieh, E and McGregor, J (Eds) Human dignity.London: Palgrave MacMillan (2017).

Laura Christ is treasurer on the board of Older Women Network Netherlands (OVN-NL), which is an active member of AGE Platform Europe. Since 2010 she has participated in AGE Platform EU Taskforces: Human Rights (age discrimination and equal opportunities), Employment, Active citizenship and Participation, Demographic Change/Age-Friendly Environments.

After several years studying history and French, then working in a psycho-geriatric hospital, Laura raised three children while studying for a Master’s degree in Social Gerontology at Vrije Universiteit (Amsterdam) where she started a second career as a scientific assistant.

In the early 1990s she became co-ordinator of the working group, Sociology-Social Gerontology at the Institute for Social Sciences, Amsterdam focusing on the social position of older people in welfare, healthcare and social services. Subsequently, the issues of ageism, age-discrimination, and gender equality in old age became guiding themes in her work as director of the National Age Discrimination Bureau, and remain so today.

For many years Laura has participated in networks, associations, boards and advisory bodies related to these issues. These encompassed the following projects and partnerships at the EU level:
–   MERI, Mapping research on the living situation of older women in Europe’ (Grundtvig, 2002-2004);
–Erasmus+ projects (with OVN-NL) ACT80+: Valuing and valorising the knowledge and skills of people 80+ (2014-2016), and Mobility Scouts: Engaging older people in creating an age-friendly environment (2016-2018).
–   Erasmus+ project (on behalf of Stichting Bij de Tijd) Invisible talents,encouraging and recognising the talents of people 80+ (2018-2020).

Sylvia Beales is Director of BealesGelber Consult, an independent inclusive social development consultancy. From 1999 to 2016 Sylvia worked at HelpAge International, first as Policy Manager, then Head of Strategic Alliances – gaining extensive experience and connections with civil society, academia and the United Nations in policy formulation, programme initiation and evaluation with respect to global ageing, disability, gender and inequality.

Sylvia is active within the Stakeholder Group on Ageing (SGA) to profile issues of ageing in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) implementation process. As founder and co-chair of the Stakeholder Group on Ageing, Sylvia was one of five civil society representatives selected to address the 2015 UN General Assembly on ageing and the SDGs.

Sylvia currently collaborates closely with Action for Sustainable Development (A4SD) to develop and roll out its SDG monitoring toolkit and score card for Voluntary National Reviews and works on SDG monitoring in the EU with SDG Watch Europe. She is co-lead of the constituency of ageing within the UNECE Regional Coordination mechanism (RCEM) and represents the RCEM within the Major Groups and other Stakeholders (MGOS) at the global level. She is working with the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) on its ‘Leave No Woman Behind’ programme.

Her other significant involvements are strategic partnerships advisor, Africa Platform for Social Protection; core group member, Global Coalition for Social Protection; member and strategic advisor, Gray Panthers; Fellow, International Council of Social Welfare; trustee of Widows for Peace through Democracy and volunteer refugee guide, Helen Bamber Foundation for survivors of human cruelty.