Trent University is well situated — literally — to do research into the growing field of rural gerontology, the study of aging outside of urban centres. The highest rates of population aging worldwide are in rural areas, and Peterborough has ready access to its surrounding county, townships and small towns. For students this means unique opportunities for experiential learning. To date Trent’s contributions in the field of gerontology has proved mutually beneficial for both students and local communities.
“Students can have almost immediate impact in terms of helping organizations reconsider the way they’re doing things for older adults,” says Dr. Mark Skinner, dean of social sciences and humanities. “It’s exciting because the work can be transformative, working towards changing things for the better in our aging society.”
Innovative solutions that can support rural communities and urban areas too
Professor Skinner, who also holds the Canada research chair in Rural Aging, Health, and Social Care at Trent, cites projects with Community Care Peterborough, the Peterborough Regional Health Centre, long term care homes, and municipalities as examples of this kind of work. And, although the Trent-based research reveals that rural life may pose significant challenges for older adults (from less availability of health care to poor Internet service), Prof. Skinner says it’s not all “doom and gloom and decline; there's so much to learn from rural success stories in support of aging.”
Trent scholars are also looking at how rural areas are responding to these kinds of challenges, sometimes in innovative ways that urban communities can learn from too. It’s vital work, given that all of society has to face pressing questions connected to an aging population.
Most recently, Trent’s acclaim as a leader in the field was demonstrated internationally through the publication of a new book called Rural Gerontology: Towards Critical Perspectives on Rural Aging, co-edited by Prof. Skinner. The book features 60-some scholars, including the director of the Trent Centre for Aging & Society (TCAS), Dr. Elizabeth Russell, TCAS coordinator Amber Colibaba, Trent Canadian Studies Ph.D. candidate Laura Poulin, and Trent alumni Rachel Herron and An Kosurko. Their work reveals new insights into rural aging as it connects to physical and mental health, community development, volunteerism, and the arts and technology, among other topics. While research on rural aging is not a new phenomenon, the book is notable as the first dedicated inquiry into a distinctive rural gerontology.
Learn more about Aging Studies at Trent, including the Trent Centre for Aging & Society and the collaborative graduate specialization in Aging Studies.