Our focus is two-fold: understanding equity, aging and care work  in international contexts; and identifying international promising practices and policies to support age-equity and age-inclusion.

We were funded in 2018 for 7 years by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Partnership Grant.  Our research builds from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) “Age-Friendly Communities” global initiative and seeks to further conceptualizations of ageing and inequities.

“Communities within communities”

We use the concept of communities within communities to highlight diversity and diverse experiences of older age, but we understand inequities that people face as they age.  For instance, poverty accelerates ageing.  As a result, ageing starts for us at 50+ because we consider aging as a cumulative social location, and one that may be out of sync with policy and program definitions of older adult.

Our primary ethnographic data collection, and analysis of policies, media, statistics, with attention to “communities within communities” across 12 cities in Canada and around the world guides us to account for differences. Addressing critical knowledge gaps identified by WHO, we will investigate how culture and gender matter in creating age-friendly cities. Our goal is to enhance the effectiveness of age-friendly practices in light of demographic shifts associated with both population aging and diversity. We ask: how can age-friendliness support conditions in which all senior citizens not only maintain healthy active lives, but can participate and create meaning in later life?

We focus on how age intersects with other social relations —  gender, class, ethnicity and race, sexuality, Indigeneity, Dementia and disability into account – to better understand the ways in which advantages and cumulative disadvantages into account.  Importantly, care work in both its paid and unpaid forms are central to our analysis of promising practices, programs and policies that support aging.

Attention to gender draws us to investigate how inequalities and differences between and among women, men and non-binary people play out in seniors’ lives and policy assumptions. Our approach to culture assumes diversities due to global migrations; imperatives for Truth and Reconciliation with indigenous peoples; intra-cultural gender roles; and rich community cultures among people with disabilities and LGBTIQ2S groups, which affect what it means to grow old with dignity and respect. We will investigate what makes age-friendly communities promising places with “promising practices” for women, men and non-binary people; those living in poverty; LGBTIQ2S, ethno-racial, indigenous, disability and Dementia communities; families who require specific supports and services; and those who support seniors, especially migrants and domestic carers, who are aging on the job. We recognize that seniors are a mobile population, moving across neighbourhoods and the globe for many reasons, from fleeing persecution to downsizing.

The strategies to conduct the research include organizing researchers and students to work within and across four themes, each co-led by teams of researchers addressing specific sub-questions.

Our international comparative methods incorporate ethnographic, survey, policy network, social work, cultural studies and arts-based methods, and will unfold in communities in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway and Taiwan.

To make unique contributions that address these complexities, this partnership includes scholars and partners from many disciplinary and sectoral perspectives. Our Canadian and international academic experts are among the few who have done theoretical, empirical, comparative and policy work on age-friendly communities using interdisciplinary, gender, equity, queer and diversity-informed perspectives.

Our research will build on and extend WHO-identified domains by focusing on the following themes: policies and systems; environments, designs and technologies; approaches to aging; and care relationships (conditions and quality).

Our innovative methods also involve partnership with local and national community groups. We bring together 18 academic and sectoral partners comprised of university-based Centres for Aging Research, organizations for seniors and their care providers, and representatives of various levels of government. Our partner organizations are at the forefront of research — that addresses age-equity and age-inclusion, age-friendly communities —  advocacy and policy. Partners provide input into research directions, contribute to developing priorities, facilitate research access, provide feedback on findings, and collaborate on knowledge mobilization.