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engAGE: Concordia’s fresh take on aging

The new research centre challenges long-held assumptions about older people
October 3, 2017
By Renée Dunk

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Seniors collaborate with Concordia researchers and students in an interACTion digital photography workshop. | Photo courtesy of Aging, Communication, Technology (ACT) Seniors collaborate with Concordia researchers and students in an interACTion digital photography workshop.

As Canada’s latest census figures show, we are part of an increasingly aging population. For the first time in history, the country has more people over the age of 65 than under the age of 15. In 40 years, seniors will make up one quarter of the country’s population.

Terms like "grey tsunami" alongside headlines like "Baby boom to aging gloom" reflect the ageist ways this demographic shift is often portrayed.

However, a new research centre uniting Concordia’s multidisciplinary expertise in the area of aging has taken root — and will shine a different light on all aspects of getting older.

The mission of engAGE: Concordia’s Centre for Research on Aging is to change how society thinks about this crucial topic. The centre’s members are committed to broadening traditional approaches to the study of aging, and training future generations of researchers and practitioners to do the same.

Christophe Guy, vice-president of Research and Graduate Studies, says that engAGE reflects the university’s tremendous capacity for transdisciplinary investigations.

“engAGE brings together researchers from fine arts to physics to explore creative ways to study age and to enhance health and well-being across the life course,” he notes.

“For me, the ability of this group of scholars to engage and collaborate with their colleagues from vastly different areas of expertise is a hallmark of this university.”

Aging’s challenges and opportunities

Shannon Hebblethwaite is the director of engAGE and associate professor of applied human sciences in the Faculty of Arts and Science

Shannon Hebblethwaite | Photo: David Ward Shannon Hebblethwaite | Photo: David Ward

She explains that the researchers involved with the centre will connect with older people and their communities to address challenges and facilitate opportunities in all realms of life: social, physical, cognitive, emotional and political. 

“Our approach involves innovative, collaborative, interdisciplinary research and research–creation," she says.

"We partner with older people, community groups, health-care and social-service professionals and industry partners. Our goal is to engAGE in thoughtful analysis of the strengths and challenges that we experience in relation to age and to suggest strategies for change."

4 holistic research clusters

Researchers in the group approach aging as something that happens to all of us from the day we are born.

“We recognize that age is associated with certain challenges. But we also wish to study aging by focusing on the strengths and opportunities that are associated with age and work to dispel ageist assumptions, practices and policies that negatively impact older people.”

Research at engAGE encompasses a holistic approach, reflected in four clusters designed to expand traditional disciplinary boundaries:

  • Communities, care and connectivity to engage older people as social actors in their communities and re-vision care in a bidirectional and intergenerational way
  • Culture, creativity and aging to consider the importance of creative approaches to later life that facilitate engagement with the arts and humanities
  • Health, well-being and the life course to address physical, cognitive and emotional changes associated with aging that are also situated socially and culturally in order to strengthen the participation of older people in their communities
  • Politics, policy and economies of aging to explore public policy and political engagement of older adults

Already, engAGE has an impressive list of 25 members from all four Concordia faculties, including area heads Kim Sawchuk (Department of Communication Studies), Janis Timm-Bottos (Department of Creative Arts Therapies), Natalie Phillips (Department of Psychology) and Patrik Marier (Department of Political Science).

The centre also has a full calendar of events planned, notably the Canadian Association on Gerontology’s annual conference in Winnipeg, from October 19 to 21, and Age 3.0: Aging in the City on November 1.

Find out more about engAGE: Concordia’s Centre for Research on Aging, or connect with engAGE on Twitter at


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