Although some studies have confirmed positive associations between social engagement and well-being in later life, this study aimed to understand why some seniors cannot be engaged. The authors analyzed the lived experiences of 89 seniors in three rural communities in Canada, from semi-structured interviews and using the constant comparison method. Five factors make choices for social engagement in later life unequal among older adults who differ by gender, class, age, and health status. Profound engagement in care work, compulsory altruism, personal resources, objectively perceived and subjectively available engagement opportunities, and ageist barriers around paid work constrain choices for seniors who lack privilege in the context of a market economy, particularly for low-income older women. To avoid stigmatizing vulnerable older persons, societal barriers to meaningful activities must be addressed – for example, through provision of income security or by reversing inter- and intragenerational ageism in access to the labor market.