It’s not every day that Trent graduate student (Sustainability Studies) Jillian Ackert finds herself cutting and pasting colourful shapes of paper into an art installation of the Odenabe (Otonabee River). This fall, the proud Traillite took part in a workshop that gathered students, community members, and scholars together to explore aging, decolonization, and accessibility through art and activism. “Imagining our Futures” was hosted by Aging Activisms, a research collective based at Trent University and led by Canada research chair in Gender and Feminist Studies, Dr. May Chazan.
The two-day, arts-based workshop brought research to life by exploring questions of aging futures in Nogojiwanong (Peterborough), and the findings will contribute to Jillian’s M.A. thesis on what makes or does not make Peterborough “age-friendly”. Participants formed intergenerational circles to explore questions and to create art together. They shaped complex and multifaceted imaginings, reflecting what diverse community organizers and social changers think about their futures in this place – what might be missing, what needs to change, and how to make this happen.
“Being part of this workshop was a critical turning point in my Master’s in that it highlighted the need for a justice-based approach to making our community a good place to grow old(er),” noted Ms. Ackert. “I am also so grateful to have been part of conversations that centered interdependence, decolonization, reciprocity, equity, accessibility, and joy in our future visions and hopes for this place.”
As a follow-up to Aging Activisms’ ongoing storytelling work, participants were invited to delve further into previous discussions that challenged ideas about aging as decline, and that successful futures belong to those who are able-bodied, able-minded, white, wealthy, heterosexual, and so on. Even more than this, stories offered in this project push back against dominant preoccupations with individual futures – futures dependent on capitalist systems, and on human aging as isolated from land, water, plants, animals, and the spirit world.