By Christine Mills, Stacey Hatch, and Lynn Haslam-Larmer
The 2021 Canadian Association on Gerontology (CAG) conference was held virtually from October 20 to 23. The theme was “Hindsight 20/20: Looking Back for a Vision Forward in Gerontology”. A number of individuals associated with the School of Rehabilitation Therapy’s Aging and Health Programs participated in this year’s conference.
Three Aging and Health PhD candidates participated in the poster presentations. Christine Mills and Cara Sadiq participated in the Canadian Institutes for Health Research Institute of Aging poster competition, held on October 21. Cara presented “The association between caregiver’s social support and burden of caregiving for patients with hip fracture: A Scoping Review” and Christine presented “Demographic, health, and social correlates of nutrition risk among residents of naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs) in Ontario, Canada.” Stacey Hatch presented her poster, titled “Efficacy of video-delivered Emotion Focused Mindfulness Therapy for late life anxiety.”
Jodi Webber, another PhD candidate within the program, presented “Can confidence in community mitigate caregiver distress?” during the Social Support and Community Connection symposium. In the Falls and Falling symposium, a recent Aging and Health PhD graduate, Dr. Lynn Haslam-Larmer presented a component of her PhD work - “Afraid to stand up and fall again - experiences, barriers, and facilitators to early mobility in older adults after fragility hip fracture: a qualitative study.”
The Aging and Health program was also represented at CAG by faculty and staff who are members of the Oasis Study Collaborative. Dr. Vincent DePaul chaired the Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities symposium. This symposium included presentations from Dr. DePaul, PhD candidate Christine Mills, and Oasis Senior Supportive Living research coordinator Simone Parniak. Presentations included a scoping review on naturally occurring retirement communities, results from a qualitative study of Oasis participants, details on patterns of physical activity in Oasis participants, and discussion of the study protocol for evaluation of the Oasis model.
The three keynote addresses that were part of the conference focussed on the theme of diversity. Dr. Margaret Morganroth Gullette presented on “Shocked, but not surprised: Ageism and eldercide in the COVID-19 era.” She highlighted the many deaths that occurred in long term care homes in the United States due to the pandemic, and the ways in which older adults had not been adequately protected.
Dr. Lisa Barnes began the second day with keynote address, “The importance of centering diversity in clinical Alzheimer’s research.” She shared the results of the Minority Aging Research Study, reporting that older African Americans begin older adulthood with lower cognition levels than white Americans, but that the rate of cognitive decline is similar between these groups. She discussed the importance of the social determinants of health. Dr. Barnes stressed that we must centre diversity to achieve health equity. Dr. Barnes shared that one of the major barriers for researchers is earning the trust of people of colour.
Lisa Krinsky, MSW, presented the third day’s keynote: “LGBTQIA+ older adults: Understanding our past and creating our future.” She encouraged us to remember that it is important for researchers not to assume that participants are cisgender or heterosexual. She discussed that the language we use to describe ourselves can change over the course of our lifetimes and over time. Some older adults might prefer terms like friend, partner, lover, spouse, and husband or wife. Among older adults, euphemisms might be used, such as friend, roommate, cousin, etc. We should not make any assumptions about the sexual orientations or identities of older adults based on the use of these words. She advised researchers and healthcare providers of the impact that the heteronormative narrative can have on participants or clients, and centre conversations around services that can offered, rather than on an individual’s identity. Lisa Krinsky also provided the following advice: if you are an ally or provide a safe space then indicate that in some way. You can wear a rainbow lanyard, have a small flag or sticker somewhere in your office, have your pronouns on your name tag, etc.
In short, there were over 400 presentations at the conference, highlighting the interesting and valuable research being conducted in the fields of aging and gerontology. Plans are underway for the CAG 2022 conference to be held in Regina. For students and researchers of aging and gerontology, CAG offers networking and knowledge translation opportunities.