JSA Fall Sypmosium
Aging in Place: Gerontology Research in Community Living
Written by Shanie Levin
On December 4th Jewish Seniors Alliance presented their Fall Symposium, “Aging in Place: Gerontology Research in Community Living”. The speakers, Rochelle Patille, Cari Randa, and Boah Kim, as well as the moderator, Eireann O’Dea, are all graduate students in Gerontology from Simon Fraser University. They shared their research on inter-generational connections, dementia-friendly communities and the role of informal caregivers for older adults. The event took place at the Peretz Centre but was also available on zoom. This, aside from the JSA Annual General Meeting, was the first event presented in a dual format since the outbreak of Covid. Fifty participants joined us on line and about twenty were present in person.
Tammi Belfer, president of JSA welcomed everyone. She pointed out the Fall Symposium focuses on an educational theme and a more serious discussion than some of our other programs. She stated that JSA wishes to provide outreach, advocacy and education services for all seniors. The goal is “Seniors Stronger Together.” She then introduced the speakers and turned over the mike to Eireann O’Dea, the moderator. Eireann is a PhD candidate in gerontology at SFU. Her interests are in social participation among older adults (particularly in volunteering and intergenerational activities); experiences among ethno-cultural minority groups and generativity. Eireann has been a board member of JSA for three years.
The first speaker, Rachelle Patille, conducts research focused on “Intergenerational Opportunities in Bridging the Gap between Generations in Metro Vancouver”. Rachelle stated that she grew up having a lot of contact with her grandmother and she believes that this intergenerational contact led to her interest is this field. She offered this definition of intergenerational contact—a social benefit that facilitates mutual interaction and exchange between generations. She discussed the factors in society that have impeded contact, such as age segregation and geographic divisions among generations that lead to ageism. Older adults living alone is the number one risk factor for isolation and loneliness. These factors underline the need for connections through programming that will bring older adults into contact with others, including other older adults. This can be accomplished through such things as home sharing, community programs, tutoring and art projects. These projects allow older adults to be part of the community through participation and mentoring, increasing the person’s feeling of self-worth. For some young people this may be their first contact with older adults and can lead to reciprocity of social networks.
She spoke about generativity, which is the passing down and transfer of knowledge and information between generations. She will also be looking at “voluntary kin”, that is, using younger members of society to replace missing family for older adults.
The next speaker, Boah Kim, focuses her research interests on integrated care, formal and informal caregiving, continuity of care and healthy aging. One of the difficulties for older adults is navigating the complex community and health care systems. Two-thirds of older adults have health limitations and thus need a close connection with the health care system. A geriatric care manager could be helpful in bridges gaps in services and helping to predict difficulties. Many factors such as age, background or health issues, cannot be changed, but a care manager and caregivers could help with these situations. In other words, formalizing caregiver support could help identify these challenges and support care for older adults.
The third speaker, Cari Landa, is the project manager of the Public Health Agency of Canada funded research project titled ”Dementia-Inclusive Streets and Community Access, Participation, and Engagement (DEMSCAPE)”. The focus is on inclusion of those living with dementia in the general community as 70% live in their own homes. What is needed is a community where they are supported and included. Planned inclusion in neighborhood designs are paramount in creating areas of accessibility, especially outdoor spaces. Carli will be interviewing participants mostly in an outdoor setting, balancing safety and comfort, to learn their feelings about public spaces. Carli is planning a documentary about these environmental issues and the tools available to help. DEMSCAPE is also developing a Design and Planning Guide to aid dementia patients in the community.
Eireann thanked the three speakers and welcomed Gyda Chud, chair of the program committee to take questions and comments. Many countries are further ahead of Canada in a number of these areas raised. One of these is the availability of affordable home care that would further facilitate aging in place. There was a question about the future Oakridge Mall—would it be dementia-friendly? Jackie Weiler, a member of the JSA board and also a member of the Senior Advisory Committee for the city of Vancouver, mentioned the idea of a Senior Planner to promote accessibility. Gyda brought the afternoon to a close with a quote from her 99-year-old mother Gallia, who has expressed a hope for world peace, diversity, inclusion and social justice for all.