From small mining towns in northern Canada to peri-urban settlements outside the bustling, coastal city of Durban in South Africa, community-engaged research has propelled two professors at the Trent Centre for Aging & Society (TCAS) to foster critical and insightful dialogue on aging.
Launched earlier today at the TCAS Open House, celebrating the opening of a new space in Blackburn Hall at Trent University for the growing centre, two new books on aging by Dr. Mark Skinner and Dr. May Chazan speak to the rich scholarship that can occur while working alongside local community leaders, shaping research at each stage of a project.
Published this year, both Ageing Resource Communities: New frontiers of Rural Population Change, Community Development and Voluntarism, by Dr. Mark Skinner and Dr. Neil Hanlon of the University of Northern British Columbia, and The Grandmothers’ Movement: Solidarity and survival in the time of AIDS, by Dr. May Chazan, reflect TCAS’s mandate to promote innovative research, education and community engagement on aging and old age that is critically-informed and challenges ageist policies and practices. Though the two books are about different places and cultures, both exemplify an interdisciplinary approach to age studies and contribute to a robust body of research fostered by the Centre.
Ageing Resource Communities provides cutting edge theoretical and empirical insights into the emerging complexity of rural aging, to understand the diverse experience of – and responses to – aging in rural and remote places that were never designed for older populations. Featuring contributions from leading international experts in geography and gerontology, the book investigates three central themes of rural population change, community development, and voluntarism that characterize aging resource communities.
“From Norway to New Zealand, resource towns face a triple jeopardy of declining economies, populations and services, with many struggling to support growing numbers of older residents who have remained behind,” said Professor Skinner. “This book tells the story of how community leaders from hinterland regions around the world are mobilizing to respond positively in the face of such challenges.”
For Professor Chazan, her research brought her from Toronto to Durban, to document the Stephen Lewis Foundation Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign – a remarkable story of solidarity and struggle at the height of the African AIDS crisis. The Grandmothers' Movement tells a story of hope while challenging conventional understandings of the global AIDS response, solidarity, and old age. It is about the power of older women to alter their own lives through collective action and about the influence of transnational cooperation to effect positive global change.
“In the South African communities where I had the honour of living and working, one in every three young adults is infected with HIV; most do not have adequate access to medical care, food, water, or livelihoods. I’ve witnessed, in family after family, older people – grandmothers – caring for the sick and the young, shouldering the immense burden of burying their own kids and then struggling to feed and clothe their grandkids. And yet, these women are immensely strong. Just as they are caring for their families – some responsible for as many as 18 children, with very minimal support – they are also mobilizing within their communities and linking themselves into international efforts,” explained Prof. Chazan. “By collecting oral histories, family trees, photo journals, and archival materials, as well as participating in community meetings, solidarity marches, and international gatherings, I tell the intimate stories of older women from four South African communities and detail how they connected into a growing campaign of some 10,000 Canadian grandmothers. From both sides of the globe, the book absolutely contests stereotypes of older women as passive or frail. It stands as a direct challenge to dominant narratives of aging as a process of decline.”
Prof. Skinner came to Trent in 2006. His research focuses on community-based approaches to rural aging, health care and the voluntary sector. Through his appointments as a Geography professor and founding director of the Trent Centre for Aging & Society, his work has involved teaching undergraduate courses in qualitative methods, health geography, rural community development and community-based research as well as supervising graduate students in the Sustainability Studies and Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies programs. At both levels, his teaching aims to connect students to the Peterborough and Kawarthas region, often via field trips and community-based education projects.
Prof. May Chazan is a Canada Research Chair in Gender and Feminist Studies at Trent University and is a research associate with the Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division (HEARD) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Prof. Chazan has taught at Trent since 2013. She is inspired by how social justice movements form, operate, and generate change and by how, across enormous differences in power, privilege, and worldview, alliances are forged and maintained. With longstanding interests in gender, aging, and intergenerational solidarities, she is particularly intrigued by the roles older women play in these activist coalitions. Since at Trent, May has become an associate of the Frost Centre for Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies, where she supervises graduate students, and a most recently appointed member to the Executive at the Trent Centre for Aging and Society.
About the Trent Centre for Aging and Society
Drawing on Trent University's reputation in inter-disciplinary excellence, the new Trent Centre for Aging & Society, now housed in Blackburn Hall at the University, promotes innovative research, education and community engagement on aging and old age that is critically-informed, challenges ageist policies and practices, and is responsive to the issues facing older people and aging communities in Peterborough, across Canada and internationally. For more information, visit www.trentu.ca/aging
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For more information contact:
Dr. Mark Skinner, Associate Professor of Geography and Director, Trent Centre for Aging & Society, Trent University, (705) 748-1011 x 7946 or email@example.com
Dr. May Chazan, Assistant Professor and Canada Research Chair, Gender and Women’s Studies, Trent University, (705) 748-1011 x 7739 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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