This brand new 7-year Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council funded project builds on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) “Age-Friendly Communities” global initiative. Our conceptualization of promising practices in aging assumes that they “add life to years”, rejecting so-called apocalyptic notions of population aging.
“Communities within communities”
The age-friendly strategy operates mostly at the city-community level with a one-size-fits-all approach. Our attention to “communities within communities” across 12 cities in Canada and around the world guides us to account for differences. Addressing critical knowledge gaps identified by WHO, we will investigate how culture and gender matter in creating age-friendly cities. Our goal is to enhance the effectiveness of age-friendly practices in light of demographic shifts associated with both population aging and diversity. We ask: how can age-friendliness support conditions in which all senior citizens not only maintain healthy active lives, but can participate and create meaning in later life?
Attention to gender draws us to investigate how inequalities and differences between and among women, men and non-binary people play out in seniors’ lives and policy assumptions. Our approach to culture assumes diversities due to global migrations; imperatives for Truth and Reconciliation with indigenous peoples; intra-cultural gender roles; and rich community cultures among people with disabilities and LGBTIQ2S groups, which affect what it means to grow old with dignity and respect. We will investigate what makes age-friendly communities promising places with “promising practices” for women, men and non-binary people; those living in poverty; LGBTIQ2S, ethno-racial, indigenous, disability and Dementia communities; families who require specific supports and services; and those who support seniors, especially migrants and domestic carers, who are aging on the job. We recognize that seniors are a mobile population, moving across neighbourhoods and the globe for many reasons, from fleeing persecution to downsizing.
The strategies to conduct the research include organizing researchers and students to work within and across four themes, each co-led by teams of researchers addressing specific sub-questions.
Our methods and partnerships
Our international comparative methods incorporate ethnographic, survey, policy network, social work, cultural studies and arts-based methods, and will unfold over a seven-year period in communities in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway and Taiwan.
To make unique contributions that address these complexities, this partnership includes scholars and partners from many disciplinary and sectoral perspectives. Our 26 Canadian and international academic experts are among the few who have done theoretical, empirical, comparative and policy work on age-friendly communities using interdisciplinary, gender and diversity-informed perspectives. Our research will build on and extend WHO-identified domains by focusing on the following themes: policies and systems; environments, designs and technologies; approaches to aging; and care relationships (conditions and quality). Our innovative methods also involve partnership with local and national community groups. We bring together 18 academic and sectoral partners comprised of university-based Centres for Aging Research, organizations for seniors and their care providers, and representatives of various levels of government. Our partner organizations are at the forefront of age-friendly research, advocacy and policy. Partners provide input into research directions, contribute to developing priorities, facilitate research access, provide feedback on findings, and collaborate on knowledge mobilization.