On the Blog Today: A Conversation Susan Braedley!

By: Aleah McCook
An Interview with Dr. Susan Braedley

The Imagining Age-Friendly “Communities within Communities” project aims to reconceptualize aging to enhance the effectiveness of age-friendly practices in communities. This project involves the collaboration of researchers with expertise across several fields of study, bringing a broad range of perspectives about aging.
As an Imagining Age-Friendly Researcher, we asked Dr. Susan Braedley a few questions about her experience. Dr. Braedley is an Associate Professor at Carleton University in the School of Social Work. She contributes her expertise on FPE, long-term care (LTC), physical environments equity and access, as well as on comparative social policy and mixed method research.
What does your disciplinary perspective bring into the conversation of imagining aging for cities and the communities within communities?
I am a sociologist, a feminist political economist and a social worker. I also have a bachelor’s degree in English literature. Each of these “disciplines” brings something to this conversation.
Sociology has theorized urban spaces and urban social relations, has developed notions of cosmopolitanism, citizenship, alienation and inclusion, has been at the forefront along with humanities in understandings of population aging at multiple levels of analysis, and has a robust feminist scholarship on the family, care, and the state.
Feminist political economy is particularly attentive to the intersecting relations of gender, race and class, including how they are constituted by and constituting social life. It is unapologetically emancipatory and collective. These values shape how the team works together to conduct and share the research processes, including with participants and communities. Humanities allow us to consider the evidence of art and story, including historical narratives, that tell us how humans make sense of and make meaning from their lives and experiences.
Social work also brings a useful perspective to our project. Social work provides us with tools that we can incorporate into our research process to both recognize that many older people from subordinated, oppressed and/or marginalized communities have experienced significant trauma in their lives, including inter-generational, or otherwise shared trauma of being one of these communities. Social work methods have allowed us to learn and develop trauma-sensitive interviewing approaches, and to develop a deeper reflexivity as researchers.
In what ways does studying promising practices advance our normative aims of age-equity and age-inclusivity?
A focus on promising practices allows us to SHOW how the relations of aging could be shifted in the direction of age equity, which, by the way, is not always in the direction of age inclusivity.  I do not see these as a spectrum of good, better, best, but as sometimes quite contradictory.
That said, the focus on promising practices acknowledges that there are not best practices, but rather that context matters. Thus, we focus not just on promising practices, but on the CONDITIONS that allow for promising practices, and the context in which the practice is promising. This allows us to assess contradictions, paradoxes and unintended consequences that may surround a promising practice, to offer cogent assessments of the costs and benefits of policy moves, as one example. Age equity includes costs, and we need to understand to whom. For example, both paid and unpaid care workers are often the ones who “pay” for increased age inclusion, offering necessary support to older adults for low wages, insecure working conditions and high health and safety risks. Our project is attentive to these issues.
What are some approaches to aging in the specific contexts (e.g., Indigenous context, immigrant context, gender context, etc.) that are needed for age-equity and age-inclusivity?
I think it is too soon to answer this question fully.  However, for immigrant older adults, an approach needs to take into account people’s life conditions. The most concerning conditions for immigrant older adults are being socially isolated due to poverty, language, family dynamics, stigmas around dementia and immigration status.  We have many immigrant older adults who are in Canada irregularly, over-staying a visa and living with family due to poor health, including dementia. We have others who have been sponsored by their families, basically as live-in child care.  Living in their children’s homes, constrained by care responsibilities, they are sometimes entirely isolated. Another group are refugee older adults who have come to Canada recently.  All of these older adults need to be approached in a language they understand, with outreach methods that can meet them in their situations and ensure their safety and respect. This is extremely challenging.
More about Dr. Braedley and her research can be found online at   https://carleton.ca/socialwork/people/susan-braedley/

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