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Concordia’s Centre for Research on Aging explores how to support older people with lessons gleaned from COVID-19

APR. 12: Panel brings together researchers in health, digital technology, fine art and more
April 1, 2021
An older gentleman in a baseball cap and a mask walking along a boulevard.

Since the COVID-19 lockdowns started a little over a year ago, Concordia research has shown that the crisis has exacerbated existing social inequities and has increased the vulnerability of marginalized groups, including older adults.

On April 12, Concordia’s engAGE: Centre for Research on Aging presents COVID-19, Aging and Well-being: One Year Later. The event brings together researchers working in a variety of areas touching on health, including the effects of stress, behaviour and lifestyle, digital technology, food insecurity and arts-based interventions.

“This is an opportunity to share research that can inform the development of better social policies, propose ways that we can improve health and social services and create a new vision for how we care both for and with older people in our communities,” says Shannon Hebblethwaite, engAGE director and associate professor of applied human sciences in the Faculty of Arts and Science.

Some of the research that will be discussed includes Jean-Philippe Gouin’s longitudinal study that examines the psychological consequences of COVID-19 on older adults and Najmeh Khalili-Mahani’s investigation of the relationship between stress and digital media.

In addition, the event will welcome panellists Constance Lafontaine, associate director of Ageing+Communication+Technologies (ACT), and Andrea Tremblay, ACT member and master’s student in the Department of Communication Studies. The two will discuss the COVID-19 Grocery Response NDG, a grocery delivery program for older people experiencing food insecurity in Montreal’s Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood, facilitated by ACT in collaboration with its community partners.

Spirit of community

Panellist Marguerite Dorion first became aware of engAGE through its art hive activities in her local library. When the pandemic hit, she began participating in the engAGE creative living lab online activities, which include art-making sessions, book clubs and digital literacy workshops held on Zoom.

A mixed media artwork depicting a woman. Mixed media artwork by Marguerite Dorion.

The project, funded by the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé, Plateforme de financements de la recherche intersectorielle sur le vieillissement, launched in January 2020. It was created by panellist Janis Timm-Bottos, associate professor in the Department of Creative Arts Therapies, to connect Concordia students and researchers with Montreal’s community of older adults. Initially housed at the Cavendish Mall in the municipality of Côte-Saint-Luc, the activities moved online due to the pandemic.

Dorion, a 76-year-old resident of the borough of Outremont, says one of the major characteristics of engAGE activities is the welcoming atmosphere.

“You feel the spirit of community, of exchange and openness.”

Dorion is a multimedia artist and painter. Through workshops with engAGE, she learned how to use a digital exhibition platform and held a virtual exhibition of her paintings alongside other engAGE participants.

The digital skills she learned with engAGE also supported Dorion through a personal tragedy. During her mother’s final moments before passing away in December 2020, Dorion was able to be at her side — virtually.

“I found myself on an iPad, listening to her breaths,” Dorion says. “If I hadn’t had the training with engAGE, I would have missed that moment.”

An ‘ism’ that affects us all

Hebblethwaite adds that, unfortunately, most of us will experience ageism at some point, according to research. She says interdisciplinary collaboration is key to understanding and supporting the aging process.

“Aging is not a homogenous experience. Interdisciplinary research contributes to action that acknowledges the multifaceted experiences of aging and helps to create innovative approaches to working collaboratively with older people to foster meaningful and sustainable change.”

Register for
COVID-19, Aging and Well-being: One Year Later, taking place online from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on April 12.

Learn more about engAGE: Centre for Research on Aging.


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