CAG Provides Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Age-Friendly Spaces

Published: Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Alison Ross, a PhD student in the Department of Health, Aging & Society, was awarded a Gilbrea Travel Award.

The theme of the 47th Annual Scientific and Educational Meeting of the Canadian Association on Gerontology (CAG) was “Making It Matter: Mobilizing Aging Research, Practice, and Policy” – the conference organizers certainly delivered on this theme and made our short time in Vancouver matter. This annual multidisciplinary event brings together clinicians, academics, administrators, policy makers, government representatives, executives, researchers, students, and seniors to share emerging gerontological research. I found this collaborative opportunity to be particularly meaningful in its offering of diverse perspectives in gerontological inquiry. As a student-researcher investigating older adults’ perspectives on polypharmacy and de-prescribing, CAG 2018 motivated me to pursue engagement in these multidisciplinary settings by applying a social science lens to a largely bio-medicalized topic.

Much of the research shared throughout the conference presented the medicalized lives of older adults and offered numerous disciplinary interpretations. Of particular interest to me was Dr. Roger Wong’s keynote address titled “Improving Hospital Care for Seniors: System, Best Practice, Innovation”. Promoting the ACE Model (Acute Care for Elders), Dr. Wong, Executive Associate Dean, Education in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia, discussed the development of geriatric programs in acute care hospitals using a system-based approach. He presented strategies to implement best practice, pondered the future of acute care innovation, and recommended the transformation of traditional hospital acute care settings into large senior-friendly spaces.

Inspired by Dr. Wong’s presentation on these senior-friendly spaces, I then attended a session on “Policy and Practice Considerations in Housing Development and Design”. Taking a disciplinary shift, senior-friendly spaces were again emphasized as essential to well-being in later life. Notably, Dr. Jim Dunn spoke to the significant implications of the aging population residing in car-dependent, low-density communities, presenting unique challenges for transportation, informal caregivers, and aggravating the experiences of social isolation. In this same session, Dr. Emily Roberts, Assistant Professor of Human Sciences at Oklahoma State University outlined the untapped potential of urban malls, presenting a strong case for their repurposing as dementia facilities.

While distinctively framed, these presentations were similarly compelling and are excellent representations of the multidisciplinary approaches that CAG takes to gerontological study. As I continue to train as a student-researcher, I look forward to both sharing and consuming exciting research at CAG 2019 in Moncton, New Brunswick.

I am very grateful to McMaster’s Department of Health, Aging, and Society, the Gilbrea Centre for Studies in Aging, and the E.B. Ryan Scholarship for their support of my research and travels to CAG this year.