engAGE-ing in research to reasses aging

The Concordia engAGE research centre is focused on interdisciplinary research to improve the lives of elderly people. Photo courtesy of Shannon Hebblethwaite

Concordia research centre explores music therapy, community programs, technology

As Concordia’s newest research unit, the engAGE centre has one very specific focus: interdisciplinary, innovative research that aims to improve the lives of elderly people.

Funded by the office of the vice-president of research and graduate studies, the engAGE centre features research from all four of Concordia’s faculties.

According to Shannon Hebblethwaite, the director of the engAGE centre and an associate professor in the department of applied human sciences, the centre specializes in diverse and community-focused research that “aspires to change how we think about aging.”

“EngAGE researchers partner with older people and their communities to address challenges and facilitate opportunities in all realms of life—social, physical, cognitive, emotional and political,” Hebblethwaite said.

She also explained that the research conducted at the centre is separated into four groups: culture, creativity and aging; community, care and connectivity; health, well-being and the lifecourse; and politics, policy and the economics of aging.

Culture, creativity and aging is focused on fine arts approaches to elderly care, including art and music therapies in long-term care facilities and research about how cultural factors influence obituaries and the remembrance of the elderly.

The Concordia engAGE research centre is focused on interdisciplinary research to improve the lives of elderly people. Photo courtesy of Shannon Hebblethwaite

Community, care and connectivity focuses on community programs and improving elder care, while the remaining two groups focus on medicine and policy.

Specific research projects include a study on how technology influences the relationship between older people and their family members, coordinating “Art Hives” (free, public art sessions open to all community members), and research on how music therapy can impact elderly people living with dementia.

Despite the centre only receiving Senate approval in June, engAGE researchers have already developed connections with local, national and international partners.

EngAGE is working with community non-profit organizations, including the advocacy group RECAA (Respecting Elders Communities Against Abuse) and Group Harmonie, a Quebec organization focused on assisting elderly people struggling with addiction and substance abuse.

Additionally, Eric Craven, the project coordinator for the Atwater Library’s Digital Literacy Program, serves as the centre’s community representative on the engAGE governing board.

EngAGE has also conducted research in partnership with a number of hospitals, including Sacré-Cœur Hospital and the Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital, and has worked with residents in long-term retirement homes, including Chartwell Retirement Residences, a company with nearly 180 residences across Canada.

According to Hebblethwaite, the centre’s researchers will be focused on a number of events over the next few months. Several engAGE researchers are preparing to present some of their findings next weekend at the annual Canadian Association of Gerontology conference in Winnipeg.

Additionally, the centre will be co-sponsoring Age 3.0: Aging in the City, a public educational event on Nov. 1 that will feature panels and workshops given by the centre’s researchers. EngAGE’s governing board is also planning a symposium during the winter 2018 semester, although a topic and date have yet to be chosen.

Ultimately, Hebblethwaite’s primary focus is the research the engAGE centre facilitates. She said the centre’s main goal for November is to “explore opportunities for new and innovative collaborations among Concordia researchers and community partners.

Photos courtesy of Shannon Hebblethwaite

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