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Gerontology Research Panel

Gerontology Research Panel:

Eager to Share our Interests and Help our Community – What’s Up with Seniors

Written by Shanie Levin

The second in the JSA Snyder Foundation Empowerment Series was jointly sponsored by JSA and the Sholom Aleichem Seniors of the Vancouver Peretz Centre. Seventy-two participants tuned in to the event via Zoom. The program was called Gerontology Research Panel: Eager to Share our Interests and Help our Community—What’s Up with Seniors.

Lindsay Grasso (Masters student, SFU) was the first presenter. She explained that she had become interested in the topic of separating couples when it impacted her own family. The problem of separation will become more severe as more couples age together and current settings in long term care separate them depending on their individual needs.

The impact of dementia on couples is profound and often one partner ends up as the caregiver for the other. When the point is reached that institutional care is required, being together would alleviate a lot of the pain. Lindsay has received a grant to look into the long-term effects of separating couples, also, the effects on visiting spouses (when only one is in care). In both cases there is the loss of a shared life, shared memories and the beginning of mourning. It is important to continue the relationship through visiting, sharing activities and eating together. The healthier spouse would need to monitor care and advocate for their partner.

Kishore Seetharaman (PHD student, SFU) has a background in architecture and became interested in planning and designing dementia-friendly neighbourhoods, especially in Metro Vancouver. Worldwide, 70% of dementia-affected adults live at home so this is more than a health issue—it is a community issue. Kishore would like communities to focus on eliminating stigma, raising awareness, social engagement, accessibility to services, improving planning and design of public spaces, and support to caregivers.


In terms of design, familiarity and easy recognition are important. Signs should be clearly visible and easy to read. Distinctive landmarks are helpful for finding the way. There is some work being done in Vancouver in this area but it is not clear as yet how it will be implemented. Kishore would like to create a body of knowledge for designs.

Eireann O’Dea (PHD student, SFU) became interested in volunteerism as an undergraduate through volunteering at the Jewish Community Centre and L’Chaim Adult Day Care. There she encountered senior volunteers who were volunteering with other seniors. She is looking into the benefits on health and a sense of purpose in life, as they move away from former roles.

Eireann has interviewed a number of senior volunteers regarding their motivation. Many spoke of Tzdakah (charity) and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) and the passing down of Jewish culture. This led her to the exploration of cultural generativity, i.e., the desire or need to keep cultural identity alive and pass it down to future generations. This is especially relevant to ethno-cultural minorities. She will be studying the effects on both the volunteers and the members of the communities.

During the Q and A, the questions had to do with dementia villages, design and cost of facilities for couples in long term care, retention and recruitment of volunteers, and more. All these questions and answers reflected the positive engagement of participants in what was an excellent, well-informed and inspired session. Shanie Levin, program coordinator for JSA, thanked the participants for their very engaging presentations.

Watch the video now!


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