Seniors of Canada Project

Published: Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Gilbrea Centre student group dispel of stereotypes of ageing through images and stories.

Written by the Seniors of Canada project team.

In May 2017, Members of the Gilbrea Student Group at McMaster University successfully received a Student Proposals for Intellectual Community & Engaged Scholarship (SPICES) grant, with the goal to represent ageing as it truly is. A true passion project for our group, we hoped to conquer ageism, mitigate the stereotypes associated with ageing and shine light on the everyday lives of seniors in the Hamilton community. We think we’ve done our goal justice. We began the project with a focus group (August, 16th, 2017) where five seniors from the community gave us their input on our initial ideas, name, and goals of the project. We received wonderful and encouraging feedback, and used that to move forward, ensuring that we maintained our goal of representing seniors the way they wanted to be represented.

We then met with seniors at a time and place of their choosing, and listened to their stories and took their photos. We met somewhere that was a part of their everyday lives; at events, somewhere they enjoyed being, where they would want to be captured or doing something they loved. We asked questions about their lives and about what ageing means to them. We then distributed these images on our social media to reach as many people as possible. 

Over the course of this year we took part in The Seniors Kickoff that takes place every June to kickoff senior’s month, we showcased our work in several guest lectures on campus, we went to the “All Aboard” event for senior immigrants at Liuna Station, we spoke about our project at the Canadian Association of Gerontology, we were invited to be an exhibitor at Hamilton Council on Aging’s Age Friendly Symposium (#Yourenevertooold campaign event) among other knowledge mobilization meetings.

Our final goal was to showcase our project in a photo-exhibit event in the heart of Hamilton, where the public was welcome to come and see the everyday lives and stories of people in their community. This event happened at Rust City Brewery on April 13th, 2018 and brought together approximately 100 people to discuss aging, narratives, photography and later life. 

Capturing Photos and Stories: During the first year, we met our target number of participants. We gathered and photographed over 11 images and stories of seniors in the Hamilton community. We currently have approximately 4-5 already scheduled and have received a huge response and interest from seniors at various events.  We had to unfortunately commit to later dates with 5 seniors due to scheduling timelines, but their pictures will be taken and their voices will be heard over the course the following months.

Photo Exhibit: On April 13th, 2018 (art crawl) we hosted a photo exhibit to display the images and stories that we captured throughout the year. This event surpassed our goal of 50 attendees. Although an exact count is difficult, we are able to estimate that approximately 100 people attended our photo exhibit event over the course of 3 hours. Our “target audience” was achieved, as our attendees included many “young” people, but also many “older” people. Including community stakeholders, faculty and staff and casual drop ins from the night’s art crawl.  The audience represented an intergenerational group of people from the Hamilton area.

Where do we go from here?

We have successfully secured $3,500 from the School of Graduate Studies to facilitate another year of picture and storytelling for 2018-2019. The structure might evolve and expand but we will continue to present everyday images of aging and mitigate stereotypes surrounding seniors in society and mainstream media.  We hope to bring a more diverse lens to what it is like to be a senior in today’s society. From the outset of the project, our senior advisory committee and the seniors later photographed in Hamilton, stressed that it was not their age that was of any significance in how they are represented, but rather the fact that their daily lives are just like anybody else’s. The conversations we had and stories we heard are something we will take with us on our journey in our professional and daily lives. Therefore, our next steps are to create a website to increase our virtual impact and share more with you about the project and the narratives of everyday seniors. We will continue to collect stories and pictures of seniors in Hamilton and will start to expand to other regions across Canada. We hope that our stories and pictures encourage others to reach out to people of all ages and backgrounds in order to share stories with one another, learn across generational boundaries and conquer ageism; one picture at a time.