Reflections on CAG 2019: Navigating the tides of ageing together by Stephanie Hatzifilalithis

by Stephanie Hatzifilalithis
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INCG, Critical Gerontology, CAG2019

Moncton, New Brunswick was home to the 48th Annual Scientific and Educational Meeting of the Canadian Association on Gerontology (CAG) conference. Held from 24th-26th of October 2019, with the theme ‘Navigating the tides of aging together’, the Université de Moncton hosted this year’s conference just a few steps away from riverfront park and the widely anticipated tidal bore.

The conference was preceded by fascinating workshops and student events surrounding topics such as: integrating LGBTQ+ experiences of aging into existing gerontology curricula, the development of new knowledge and information to support Age-Friendly Communities, and communication strategies in gerontological research to increase likelihood for action.

Throughout the conference, we heard from experts in the field of aging who themselves were located across a range of disciplines and professions such as health, social science, practice, and policy. The opening address was delivered by Dr. Martin Hyde from Swansea University, who highlighted the need to think globally to better understand the diversity in the ageing process. Dr. Hyde spoke to the importance of seeing older people as not passive objects removed from these spatial dynamics, but as active agents in a global context.

The next day Dr. Kimberly Wilson (University of Guelph) moderated a panel on how taking an intersectional lens on ageing can result in insights with regards to marginalized populations. Panelist Professor Emeritus Brian de Vries (San Francisco State University) spoke about discrimination and stigma of LGBT older people and the impact this has throughout the life course, and especially in the context of care. Dr. Jennifer Walker (Laurentian University) shared perspectives and experiences of ageing within First Nation communities and highlighted the need to acknowledge the role previous government policies have on the current state of indigenous health in Canada. Dr. James Worthington (National Medical Advisor to Correctional Service Canada) addressed the diverse experiences of ageing and the crucial importance of not forgetting incarcerated and criminalized older people in federal custody.  On the last day, Dr. Sébastien Lord (University of Montréal) spoke to the significance of the effects of place and the complexity of the relationship between people and their environments including the socio-spatial inequalities experienced by older people. Together, the keynote sessions brought a much-needed critical perspective to ageing and later life and drew attention to the vast heterogeneity of ageing experiences that are shaped across local and global contexts.

Over the three days of the conference, oral papers and posters focused on themes such as social isolation and exclusion in later life, teaching and learning in gerontology, technology and ageing, housing, dementia, experiences of caregiving, and decision making in long term care, among a range of topics.  With each presentation and session, new challenges and insights into contemporary gerontology emerged. Crucially, this year, delegates and participants were acutely aware of the importance of knowledge mobilization and delivering impactful solutions to the challenges facing older Canadians. Together, the keynotes and presentations shed light on the increasingly diverse environments older people currently negotiate and the need for innovative and dynamic responses to new challenges that older people will face. Overall, ageing landscapes and global dynamics were debated and discussed, with meaningful reflections on strategies to navigate the tides of ageing together.

The annual meeting of the CAG is also known for the promotion of intergenerational support across junior and senior gerontologists. Again, this year, CAG offered an inclusive space for students, faculty, community members and practitioners to present their work, debate, and discuss ideas.  This conference also provided me, a number of students, and other ageing scholars a look into the present understandings of gerontology. I look forward to working with the past, present, and future cohorts of gerontologists to engage and challenge ideas, assumptions, and practices of ageing and later life.

I would like to sincerely thank the Canadian Association of Gerontology for an exceptional conference and for the Margery Boyce Bursary. I would also like to thank The Wilson Foundation, The Gilbrea Centre for Studies in Aging, and the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging for their support in attending CAG 2019.

I look forward to the next meeting in Regina 2020!

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