Note from the director
New Members 2020
An Interview with Martha McDonald
We asked Dr. Martha McDonald to answer a couple questions about her experience as an Imagine Aging Researcher:
Q1. Could you please tell us about yourself, your research and your interests?
I am an economist at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, NS Canada. I trained as a labour economist and largely self-trained as a political economist. My early research on labour market segmentation and inequality led to an increased focus on gender. My research moved beyond the labour market to focus more on livelihoods and the importance of unpaid work. Livelihoods are also highly dependent on government policy. My policy work has looked at EI and other income security and social policies, as well as industry policies. It is in the context of research on labour market restructuring in rural Atlantic Canada that I first studied home care and long term care, as these are important employers. My research has always been interdisciplinary. I was approached by Pat Armstrong, with whom I have collaborated over the years, to join the Reimagining Long Term Residential Care project as it was being developed. My work on that project drew on my social policy interests as well as my interest in conditions of work. Unpaid work also features strongly in long term care, so it brought together many of my interests. I still do not see myself as an expert on aging. On the personal front, I have two grown children and one granddaughter, who now live outside my region. I remain very grounded in my life in Nova Scotia, though I love to collaborate with colleagues from around the world. I also like to welcome colleagues to Nova Scotia. COVID-19 has put a serious damper on these interactions.
Q2. Why you chose to join the project, what drew you to the project?
My involvement in this project grew out of the Reimagining Long Term Residential Care project. I was keen to continue working with the great group of international colleagues and friends from that project. I also liked the idea that this project would not focus on one program or type of institution, but would take a broader look at aging. I like getting out in the neighbourhoods.
Q1. How should we imagine aging?
The life course is a process, and aging is not something that abruptly happens. People may spend as many years being seniors as they did in paid work or raising children, and we need to think about people’s opportunities and needs through all those years. In our market-driven economy aging can be more like a cliff you drop off, where all the chickens come home to roost. Like a game of musical chairs, you land on a place that embodies all the inequities of a life-time, reflected in your health, income, social supports and opportunities. The project focuses on these ‘communities within communities’, recognizing that the experience of aging can be very different. Imagining aging should meet people where they are with a vision to enhance their lives. This means focusing on the structural factors that reproduce inequities, inhibit well-being and limit options.
Q2. What does my disciplinary perspective bring into the conversation of imagining aging for cities and the communities within communities?
At this point in my career, I’m not sure if I still have a disciplinary perspective! Perhaps I ask some different questions in policy analysis, coming from a feminist economics perspective. I am also comfortable taking on economists, who have undo influence in the policy environment. I find in this project, more than any other, I am particularly interested in the contributions of cultural studies to the discourse on aging, and enjoy learning from those with non-social science backgrounds.
Q3. In what ways does studying promising practices advance our normative aims of age-equity and age-inclusivity?
We learn more looking at what is promising than revealing what is bad. Sometimes it is simple things that make the difference, things that look obvious once you see them in action. As an economist trained primarily in secondary data analysis, I always thought you needed to talk to people to fully understand an issue or empirical finding. Now I realize it’s more than just talking. You need to observe carefully, take in the feel of an environment, watch people engage (or not). I think that is why our digital cues have been so powerful.
Through our process of catalytic ethnography, over the last year we have successfully created several digital stories which outline the promising practices we have found. Here are the ones we have created:
- Imagine Aging Project: What do people living in a city need as they age?
- Imagine Aging Project: What does ‘Age-Friendly’ mean to you?
- Imagine Aging Project: “Less Lonely”
- Imagine Aging Project: Exploring Death Friendliness
Project Accomplishments 2019/2020
- With CUPE National and Egale, the Ottawa team received a MITACS award to do a study on improving public services safety for LGBTQ2+ seniors and workers. The study is now complete, and entailed an extensive literature review, a national environmental scan, interviews and focus groups. Christine Streeter, a doctoral student with the project, has conducted the research under the supervision of Irene Jansen (CUPE), Martin Krajcik (Egale) and Susan Braedley.
- In June 2019, the first pilot training in trauma-sensitive research interviewing was offered by Susan Braedley and Anna Przednowek, a doctoral student researcher with the project. This training, using interview simulations with actors and reflecting teams, is now being developed as a teaching resource.
- Madeline Lamanna, a MSc student with the project, has completed her thesis using data from the Ottawa site study. Her work shows the relationship between seniors’ access to public transit and their social participation in the community. With perspectives from transit workers, including managers and bus operators, and from seniors, this is a unique and important contribution to our understandings of how transportation supports moves toward age-equitable cities. Madeline is supervised by co-investigator, Dr. Renate Ysseldyk, with Susan Braedley as a committee member.
- Susan Braedley (PI) and Renate Ysseldyk were successful in an application, COVID and Seniors at Home: Addressing Diverse Needs, Supporting Seniors’ Service Innovation $19, . Co-investigators include Lauren Brooks – Cleator, a SSHRC post-doc attached to the partnership, and Dr. Dennis Kao. This project will recontact participants and agencies involved in the Ottawa site study, completed in 2019, to do several “waves” of interviews and check-ins to assess how COVID is affecting older adults in Ottawa and how services and policy makers are responding.
- Susan Braedley received a Carleton Graduate Mentor Award in March, 2020, in recognition of her work with graduate students and colleagues across Carleton. Nominees included many who are participating in the Imagine Aging team.
- Susan Braedley is a co-applicant on a Norwegian Research Council Grant Proposal led by co-investigator Gudmund Agotnes, and includes other co-investigators from the Imagine Aging team, as well as other researchers. The project focuses on changing mood-altering substance use, including treatment and regulation, in older adult populations in three countries, and grew out of the Ottawa site study findings.
- 1-year CIHR Development Grant: With the support of the SSHRC project, Sean Hillier received a small 1-year CIHR Development Grant: Aging Well with HIV in Indigenous Communities: “Communities within Communities”. Canadian Institutes of Health Research Development Grant: Indigenous Gender & Wellbeing. Sean is the PI along with the Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy and Dr. Tamara Daly is the Co-PI.
- Hamza, who has been with the project for a year and a half completed his BSc In Kinesiology & Health Sciences April 2020
- Dr. Gudmund Ågotnes is leading the substance use and abuse in old age: policies and services in changing times
- Dr. Frode Fadnes Jacobsen Age-friendly physical and social environments: exploring new models for cooperation and service innovation for vulnerable older people.
Virtual Semi-Annual Meeting 2020
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