Ageing (Wo)Men and their World


Ageing (Wo)Men and their World will showcase the cross-cultural complexity of the ageing experience through a medley of still and moving images of elders in Montreal. It is a response to the limited (and often, white) representations of ageing in popular culture. The exhibition’s theme is guided by a remix of Nuit Blanche’s Expo theme—the Man and his World.
Ageing (Wo)Men and their World will demonstrate the enthusiastic and active world of elders in Montreal and the different projects that they do, specifically their relationship to and with technology. Examples include: images of women taking photos of each other, or of themselves; women working on a documentary about saris; elders using electronic music technology; and, elders in various Montreal public spaces together. The images and videos will be a mix of already existing imagery from ACT-related members and of new imagery that will be taken specifically for this exhibition and deal more specifically with the intersection of innovation, technology, and the Ageing (Wo)Men and their World.
The purpose is to catch the attention of spectators and those walking by or taking the bus on DoctorPenfield in order to make them re-consider the popular rhetoric of ageing and to contextualize the images.
The exhibition installation uses DIY techniques to mix new and old technologies to present image-based work. Nuit Blanche and it’s Expo 67 theme is the perfect festival to showcase this type of work. These methods also align with Concordia’s enthusiasm for the non-paradigmatic use of technologies and their potential to support critical thought. The Samuel Bronfman Building would be turned into a futuristic ‘pavilion’ with its windows turned into temporary screens.
From 6:00 pm – 1:00 am on Saturday, 4th March, spectators will be immersed in the world of Montreal residents moving in windows of the Samuel Bronfman ‘ACT Pavilion’.
This exhibition is funded by ACT and by the Social Science (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council).
The Curator of Ageing (Wo)Men and their World is Magdalena Olszanowski.


Les aîné(e)s et leur monde

Pour Nuit blanche, l’édifice Samuel Bronfman de l’Université Concordia se transformera en un pavillon futuriste. Ses fenêtres seront utilisées comme écrans temporaires sur lesquels seront projetés des images représentant les complexités interculturelles du vieillissement L’exposition cherche à repenser les stéréotypes du vieillissement et des technologies et à rendre l’invisible visible.

Stereotypes Contested: A Case Study on Older People’s Political Activism, ICT Usage, and Intergenerational Solidarity

By Daniel Blanche

The Iaioflautas in a demonstration on January 2013 (photo by Fotomovimiento under a CC BY-NC-ND license).

With this text I intend to share some reflections regarding the perception of stereotypes of older people, and how these are confronted by older adults who are highly active in political protests, in adopting information and communication technologies (ICT), and in continuous  collaboration with younger generations. These reflections come from a broader case study about a social movement led by older people that emerged in Barcelona in late 2011 called “Iaioflautas,” which in English can be roughly translated as “flute grannies,” in solidarity with the defamatory appellation against young hippie squatters, “Perroflautas” (“flute dogs”).

It has become common to think about older people as engaged voters and thus more politically involved than younger people. Studies have suggested that in some European countries older people seem to participate more than younger people in elections (Goerres, 2007; Quintelier, 2007). However, not many people envision older people’s political participation within social movements, in the form of protests, demonstrations, sit-ins, blockades, and other non-institutionalized ways of participating in the political sphere. Scholarship has mirrored this trend as there has been limited research conducted on older people’s involvement in political activism and protest activities (Adler, Schwartz, & Kuskowski, 2007), with some notable exceptions (Sawchuk, 2009; Narushima, 2006).

Portrayals of older adults as unskilled and as problematic ICT users are also widespread and common (Loos, Haddon & Mante-Meijer, 2012; Fernández-Ardèvol, & Ivan, 2015). Fortunately, research has challenged this perception demonstrating that age per se is not the decisive factor for ICT dexterity, but rather, it acts in conjunction with several other factors (e.g., ICT experience, socioeconomic status).

The appearance of “Iaioflautas” as a new social movement is characterized not only by being composed largely by older people, but also by their active use of ICTs for organizational and communicational purposes. Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol and I decided to examine this group in the hopes of contributing to knowledge about older adults’ participation in what has been termed “networked social movements” (Castells, 2012). The participants’ perceptions of ageist stereotypes and their use of ICTs within the movement were two of the aspects our study examined.

Through a series of 15 semi-structured interviews with politically active participants, we found that most of the interviewees shared negative stereotypes of older adults held by younger people. Some of the most common perceptions cited in the interviews were that older adults are regarded as a burden, stubborn, aloof, selfish, or unproductive. The last notion, that older adults are unproductive, was most notable, as society seems to value older adults only as long as they remain active, autonomous, productive, and engaged in society. This belief seems to be implicitly supported by some participants, who were critical of their age-peers not protesting in the streets with them. The majority also reported feeling praised and encouraged by others when engaging actively in protests. Yet, even when they do so, they are scrutinized and questioned. One participant remarked: “When you go out, ‘disguise’ yourself, and do what we do…you’re a freak! They don’t understand. ‘What is that person thinking?’ ‘But Sir, at your age?’” So, on the one hand, older people are valued only if they participate actively in society, and on the other, are judged as acting inappropriately for their age.

All participants in the study have a mobile telephone and nearly all of them communicate regularly and consistently through Internet via emails, social media, and apps. The data collected from a non-representative online survey that we codesigned with colleagues (Tecnopolítica, 2014) indicates that of a subsample of self-reported participants in Iaioflautas aged 60 and over (n=13), 9 participants (69%) used a computer (desktop, laptop) and 11 (85%) used social network sites to access and share information about the protest movement. Facebook (85%) and WhatsApp (54%) were the most common digital technologies used during their participation. Moreover, 73% of these Facebook users and 71% of these WhatsApp users reported having used these technologies for the first time during their participation in the movement. In other words, their involvement in the movement also meant an introduction to new digital technologies. Our interviews revealed that participants learned to use these technologies through two distinct pathways: either forced by their daily commitments – work, family life, social participation – or facilitated by courses organized by the movement itself. The latter was particularly relevant for blue-collar workers, either working or retired. A participant explains: “We organized a couple of short courses on computing because they had no idea what Facebook or an email were. Now, they are loving it. They are with their email, Facebook, Twitter all day long, which is great! But they had no clue, 80% of them.” Although not representative of the older population in Spain, the data assisted in debunking the notion that older people are unable to learn and master new technologies as a consequence of their age.

While many participants believe that they are influencing change in regards to the prejudices and stereotypes older adults face, they do so with caution. Their participation in Iaioflautas generally inspires admiration and respect, in part, because older people are not expected to engage in protest activities, and also because this group is committed to intergenerational activities (Villar, 2012). They have been engaged in constant and relatively demanding activities that work towards creating solidarity across generations. Although most often regarded as an older adult’s movement, people of all ages participate in the group, either sporadically, or on a regular basis: younger people help older adult’s learn ICTs; younger people learn from the older adult’s organizational and tactical ideas; and Iaioflautas usually supports other associations and social movements that champion intergenerational interests. Many participants expressed a wish for greater media coverage so their work can be both locally and internationally recognized, and to demonstrate to the world that older adults can be politically active. Others expressed a wish for more equitable treatment in the media. One participant expresses this concern: “A few months ago there was a newspaper article that said ‘Iaioflautas with iPhones’…So what? That because we are older we can’t know how to use telephones and new techniques? It said something like we were Superman, or the like, because we even had iPhones!”

While this study addresses what might be understood as a minority within a population, it is important to remember that only a relative minority of people, young or old, becomes involved in social movements activities. Our findings challenged the social perception of older adults as problematic in the adoption of new ICTs. We found that as long as older adults understood the adoption of new technologies as beneficial, their interest in learning increases, and they can become as intensive users as younger people. Iaioflautas offer us a good example of how ageist stereotypes can be combated: via greater intergenerational interaction and collaboration, wider training opportunities on ICTs, and fairer portrayals of older people in the media and popular culture. This might not be enough, but it helps in building greater social cohesion between older and younger people, a relationship that at times appears to be under stress.


Bibliography on request: dblanchet (at) uoc (dot) edu

Daniel Blanche is a PhD student at University Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona and a Research Assistant for ACT, involved in coordinating the Telecommunication Technology research stream of the project.

Loredana Ivan on “Seniors, risk and mobile communication” at IN3

On July 9, 2015, Loredana Ivan, ACT co-applicant and Professor at the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration in Romania, spoke at IN3 at the Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona. Loredana was at IN3, a ACT partner institution, as a visiting scholar.  Below, you can see a presentation she gave during her stay in Barcelona on “Seniors, risk and mobile communication”. More information on Loredana’s talk is also available on the IN3 website.


New “ACT Lunch & Learn” speaker series at Concordia University featuring “Old, Crafty and Connected”


The ACT project has launched a new “Lunch & Learn” series at Concordia. Each month, a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow is invited to present on their research. Colleagues provide feedback and ask questions in an informal setting. Everyone in the ACT community, from researchers to community partners, is invited to attend. The series kicked off in October 2016 and has been going strong since with monthly presentations and discussions.

This month, ACT-affiliated student and MA student in Media Studies at Concordia University, Nora Lamontagne, will present on her MA project Old, crafty and connected: The Cercle des fermières community in the age of digital networks. 

In her project, Nora’s seeks, first, to understand how the Fermières, as an intergenerational organization with a large membership that includes older women, have incorporated the use of the Internet and digital communications into their organization. Second, it looks to analyze how the incorporation of these digital, on-line platforms reshapes the sense of community present in this longstanding all-female institution.

Pack a lunch and join us in the ACT offices!

Monday, January 23, 2017
Samuel Bronfman Building, 4th floor
1590, ave. du Docteur Penfield, Montreal

ACT is accepting travel funding applications for the ENAS-NANAS conference in Graz

ACT is accepting funding applications from ACT-affiliated researchers (namely co-applicants, collaborators and affiliated students) for the 2017 ENAS-NANAS meeting to be held at the University of Graz from April 27 to 30 2017. A limited number of partial funding travel grants, corresponding to the costs of air travel, will be made available. In such cases when solely train travel is preferred over a flight, train travel can be reimbursed. Those interested in applying for funding can do so by sending an email by February 5, 2017 to “application (at) actproject (dot) ca”. Those who apply should be able and willing to book their flight through ACT by February 24, 2017.

In this application email, please include.

  1. Your name and affiliation
  2. Provide the title of the presentation and the abstract that was submitted and accepted to the 2017 ENAS-NANAS conference
  3. If you are presenting as part of an organized panel, please send the title of the panel and the names of the other panel members.
  4. If you have been previously funded for travel by ACT, include the date (month and year) of the last time you were funded (excluding ACT annual meetings).
  5. Provide all the information we need to book your flight (your departure and arrival dates, cities of arrival and departure, your full name as stated on your passport, your date of birth, and your phone number). You will be consulted before the booking takes place and will get a chance to review the flight.
  6. If you are a ACT-affiliated student or postdoctoral fellow, please include a letter from the sponsoring ACT member (collaborator or co-applicant) or, alternatively, the sponsoring ACT member can send an email to the appropriate email address by the deadline. This letter or email should simply and clearly state that the senior researcher supports the student or postdoctoral fellow’s request for funding.

Kick-off seminar: “Between the Normal and the Abnormal – Cultural Meanings of Dementia and Old Age in Finland and Russia”

University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu campus, Agora building, Yliopistokatu 4, ​​​​​Auditorium AG106 Program

Tuesday 13 December 2016

10.15 Opening of the seminar
Project leader, professor Maija Könönen, UEF
10.30–11.30 Cultural changes in dementia: Stigmatization and everyday life
Ph.D, director Christine Swane, EGV-Social Inclusion of Older People, Copenhagen
11.30–12.30 Memory and self in dementia and later life depression
Ph.D, Senior Researcher Marja Saarenheimo, The Finnish Association for the Welfare of Older People
13.30–14.30 On Attitudes towards old people and ageing in Russia
Ph.D, Postdoctoral researcher Julia Zelikova, St. Petersburg
15.00–16.00 Transnational babushka: grandmothers and family making between Russian Karelia and Finland
D.Soc.Sc, Postdoctoral researcher Tatiana Tiaynen-Qadir, University of Turku
Wednesday 14 December 2016
9.15–12.00 Workshop & presentations
9.30–10.00 Sociological dimensions of agency of the persons living with dementia
Professor Jyrki Jyrkämä, University of Jyväskylä
10.15–10.30 On-screen Representations of Alzheimer’s and Dementia: A Work in Progress Report
Professor Andrei Rogatchevski, University of Tromsø
10.30–12.00 Discussion and closing of the seminar Welcome!
Seminar is organized by the research project Between the Normal and the Abnormal – Cultural Meanings of Dementia and Old Age in Finland and Russia (2016–2019), lead by professor Maija Könönen (Russian culture, School of Humanities, UEF) and funded by The Kone Foundation.
Contacts: Sinikka Vakimo, p. 050 4424 377, (Sinikka.Vakimo(at)​