Portraits of Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Reimagining discourses on ageing.

If you google Alzheimer’s and dementia, you will find articles on “the ticking time bomb” of dementia and the socio-economic costs of Alzheimer’s. You’ll encounter videos of scientists speaking authoritatively on our inevitable cognitive decline and perhaps, most alarmingly, you’ll read messages explaining that we reach our intellectual peak at 25 years of age and it’s all just a sad descent from there.

Open letter to the mayor of Montreal

February 7, 2018


Ms. Valérie Plante
Mayor of Montreal
275 Notre-Dame St East
Montreal, Québec
H2Y 1C6


Dear Madam Mayor:

We are writing to you in response to the consultation process for the Plan d’action municipal pour les personnes aînées 2018-2020. While we are pleased to see the city developing an action plan for bettering the lives of Montreal seniors, we want to share concerns we have about the public consultation process, and are calling on the city of Montreal and its new administration to substantially improve the process in order to make a genuine effort to engage older adults in Montreal’s Municipalités amies des aînés (MADA) strategy.

We are writing on behalf of our respective research organizations: engAGE, the Centre for Research on Aging, and the international project Ageing, Communication, Technologies (ACT), both of which are based at Concordia University. In our work, we examine questions related to later life and we do collaborative research with seniors in the Montreal community.

We strongly believe that genuine public engagement needs to be a precursor to public policy, and we are following the city’s recently-announced public consultation process with great interest. We understand from the action plan’s webpage (https://www.realisonsmtl.ca/aines) that the consultation process entails an online survey, four public consultations sessions slated for February, and a guide to organize community conversations. Upon reading details of the MADA consultation process, we believe it will exclude the voices of seniors, especially those of seniors who are already most marginalized.

First, the public discussions are slated to occur in February, one of the coldest and snowiest months of the year. This is a time when we know seniors are wary of venturing out of their homes, and seniors with mobility issues will not likely attend. The seniors with whom we work have already expressed concerns that the weather and road conditions would prevent them from participating. Likewise, the locations that have been chosen for the consultations are not easily accessible for seniors who rely on public transit. Three out of four locations are next to metro stations that do not have elevators. The one location that is near an accessible metro requires an 11-minute walk to reach it. Aren’t the seniors with reduced mobility among those who are most acutely in need of an age friendly city?

Second, we are struck by the fact that the process seems to eliminate the opportunity for Montreal’s significant population of English-speaking seniors to participate. A 2006 report by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages explains that English-speaking seniors in Montreal are at a higher risk of isolation than those who are French-speaking. As you surely know, most immigrant seniors in Montreal have English, not French, as their first official language. Why are older anglophones and immigrants being systematically disregarded in this consultation process?

From what we found, the website outlining the consultation process is only in French, as are the survey and the guide for organizing community discussions. We must also call attention to the unfortunate fact that no consultations are happening in the west of the city, in heavily English-speaking boroughs, including in Montreal’s most populous and diverse borough CDN-NDG. We hope that English-speaking Montrealers will be included in the four consultation sessions themselves, and that translation services will be provided.

Third, the survey designed to collect the opinions of Montrealers is only available online, and we haven’t seen non-digital alternatives for filling out the survey. We know from our research that seniors are less connected to the internet than younger individuals. We also know that seniors who are already otherwise marginalized are even less digitally connected. In fact, low digital literacy correlates with low general literacy, low education levels and poverty. The city’s online poll will reach the youngest, wealthiest and most educated seniors living in Montreal, and ignore the opinions and lived experiences of the oldest citizens as well as those who are already excluded or isolated in the city. For this consultation process to be inclusive and age friendly, steps need to be taken to include the opinions of seniors who are not online.

Fourth, and finally, the city encourages Montrealers to host their own community conversations, and provides a guide to facilitate these sessions. Small-scale community conversations are a nice idea, but how can they have an impact when the city is not listening? Nowhere does the city invite or provide a way for citizens to submit the ideas, reports or recommendations that will emerge from these conversations.

If Montreal wants to call itself an age friendly city, it should begin by adopting consultation processes that are attuned to the realities of the older adults who live here. We call for the city to extend its consultation period into the spring, and to take concrete, remedial steps to address the issues we have raised above. It is time for the new Mayor and administration to show Montrealers their commitment to a brand of public consultation that is thoughtful, genuine and inclusive.

Our research groups would be pleased to meet with Montreal’s MADA team to further discuss these issues, and to work together towards building a better and inclusive process.

Dr. Kim Sawchuk
Director, Ageing, Communication, Technologies (ACT)
Concordia University

Dr. Shannon Hebblethwaite
Director, engAGE: Centre for Research on Aging
Concordia University


Lettre ouverte à la mairesse de Montréal

Montréal, le 7 février 2018

Madame Valérie Plante
Mairesse de Montréal
275 rue Notre-Dame Est
Montréal, Québec
H2Y 1C6

Madame la Mairesse,

Cette lettre a pour objet le processus de consultation du Plan d’action municipal pour les personnes aînées 2018-2020. Nous saluons la volonté de Montréal d’élaborer un plan d’action pour améliorer les conditions de vie des aînés montréalais, mais nous voulons toutefois exprimer nos préoccupations quant au processus de consultation publique mis en place. Nous demandons à la ville de Montréal et à sa nouvelle administration d’apporter des améliorations importantes au processus et de faire un effort concret pour inclure les personnes âgées dans la stratégie Municipalité amie des aînés (MADA) de Montréal.

Nous vous écrivons au nom de nos groupes de recherche respectifs : le projet de recherche Ageing, Communication, Technologies (ACT) et engAGE, soit le Centre de recherche sur le vieillissement, tous deux basés à l’Université Concordia. Dans le cadre de nos recherches, nous nous intéressons aux questions liées au vieillissement et réalisons des projets en collaboration avec des aînés de la communauté montréalaise.

Nous croyons fermement que toute nouvelle politique publique doit se doter en amont d’un véritable processus de participation publique. C’est donc avec grand intérêt que nous suivons le processus de consultation publique récemment entamé par la ville. Le site web du plan d’action (https://www.realisonsmtl.ca/aines) laisse entendre que ce processus de consultation comprend un sondage en ligne, quatre discussions publiques prévues au mois de février, ainsi qu’un document préparatoire pour animer des discussions dans la communauté. Toutefois, force est de constater que le processus de consultation au sujet de MADA empêchera la participation de nombreux aînés, en particulier celle des plus marginalisés.

Premièrement, les discussions publiques ont lieu en février, l’un des mois les plus froids et enneigés de l’année. Nous savons tous que les aînés hésitent à s’aventurer à l’extérieur de chez eux dans de telles conditions. Les personnes à mobilité réduite n’assisteront fort probablement pas aux discussions. Les personnes âgées avec qui nous travaillons ont déjà exprimé leurs inquiétudes en rapport à la température et aux conditions des routes qui pourraient compromettre leur participation. De plus, les lieux choisis pour les consultations ne sont pas facilement accessibles pour les personnes âgées qui dépendent du transport en commun. Trois des quatre sites sont à proximité de stations de métro qui ne sont pas munies d’ascenseur. Le seul emplacement à proximité d’un métro accessible nécessite une marche de 11 minutes. Les aînés à mobilité réduite ne figurent-ils pas parmi ceux qui ont le plus besoin d’une « municipalité amie des aînés »?

Deuxièmement, le processus de consultation dans sa conception actuelle exclut la la participation de l’importante population aînée anglophone de Montréal. En 2006, un rapport du Commissariat aux langues officielles soulignait pourtant que les aînés anglophones de Montréal courent un plus grand risque d’isolement que les aînés francophones. Comme vous le savez sûrement, la majorité des aînés issus de l’immigration à Montréal ont l’anglais et non le français comme première langue officielle. Pourquoi les anglophones et les immigrants sont-ils systématiquement mis à l’écart dans ce processus de consultation? Le site web détaillant le processus de consultation n’est d’ailleurs qu’en français, tout comme le sondage et le document préparatoire. Il est aussi très regrettable qu’aucune consultation ne se tienne dans l’ouest de la ville, dans les arrondissements fortement anglophones, dont l’arrondissement de Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, qui est non seulement le plus populeux mais aussi le plus multiculturel de Montréal. Nous espérons que les Montréalais et Montréalaises anglophones qui participeront aux quatre séances de consultation pourront au moins bénéficier de services d’interprétation.

Troisièmement, le sondage conçu pour recueillir les opinions des Montréalais et Montréalaises n’est disponible qu’en ligne et nous n’avons vu aucune alternative non numérique permettant de le remplir autrement. Nous savons, grâce à nos recherches, que les aînés utilisent moins Internet que les plus jeunes. Nous savons également que les personnes âgées qui sont déjà marginalisées utilisent encore moins Internet. En effet, une faible connaissance du monde numérique est liée à de faibles niveaux d’alphabétisation et de scolarité, ainsi qu’à un faible revenu. Un questionnaire en ligne ne fera que sonder les aînés les plus jeunes, les plus riches et les plus éduqués de Montréal, tout en excluant les opinions de ceux et celles qui comptent parmi les plus âgés, exclus ou isolés de notre ville. Pour que ce processus de consultation soit inclusif et adapté aux réalités du vieillissement, des mesures doivent être prises pour tenir compte les opinions des aînés qui n’ont pas accès à Internet.

Si Montréal souhaite réellement devenir une « municipalité amie des aînés », elle doit d’abord commencer par adopter des processus de consultation adaptés aux réalités des personnes âgées qui y vivent. Nous demandons à la ville d’étendre sa période de consultation jusqu’au printemps et de prendre des mesures correctives et concrètes pour remédier aux problèmes que nous avons soulevés par l’entremise de cette lettre. Le dossier MADA offre à la nouvelle mairesse et à son administration l’occasion parfaite de démontrer aux Montréalais et Montréalaises leur engagement envers une consultation publique qui est réfléchie et inclusive.

Nos groupes de recherche sont à votre entière disposition pour une rencontre avec l’équipe MADA de la ville afin de discuter de ces enjeux et de travailler, ensemble, vers l’élaboration d’un processus inclusif.

Kim Sawchuk
Directrice d’Ageing, Communication, Technologies (ACT)
Université Concordia

Shannon Hebblethwaite
Directrice d’engAGE, le Centre de recherche sur le vieillissement
Université Concordia

Women, Ageing and Media International Summer School 2018

The research group Women, Ageing, and Media (WAM) has issued a call for the 2018 edition of the WAM Research Summer School. The School, which will be held from June 26 to 28 2018 at the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham, UK, will bring together academics and international postgraduate researchers across disciplines whose research engages with women and ageing. This year’s theme is performativity and age, and will feature presentations from keynotes Wendy Martin and Josephine Dolan. more information about the School is available on WAM’s website.

ACT will cover travel costs for up to $1,500 CAD for ACT-affiliated students. Make sure




Conference theme: Performativity and Age


Abstracts are invited for presentations around questions of performing age at the intersections of qwhere women and ageing come together with:

Screen cultures
Popular music
Popular culture
Cultural activity
Lived experience

ACT Student Bursaries: Deadline Extended

The ACT Student Bursaries are awarded to students enrolled in master’s or doctoral programs in ACT partner universities, and who are conducting research on the intersections of ageing, communication and technologies as part of their thesis project. ACT will award up to four competitive bursaries per year; two for doctoral students ($2,000 CAD each) and two for master’s students ($1,000 CAD each).

All applications must be submitted to application@actproject.ca by the required due date of February 15, 2018.


  • The student must be registered in a doctoral or master’s program in an ACT partner university.
  • The student’s candidacy must be supported by an ACT co-applicant or collaborator, who is affiliated with the student’s home university/ACT partner university and able to administer ACT funds to the student. However, the student does not necessarily need to be directly supervised by the supporting ACT co-applicant or collaborator.
  • The student must be registered in a program with a required thesis component.
  • The student’s thesis must fit directly within the mandate of ACT.
  • If in a PhD program, the student’s thesis proposal must have been approved or defended prior to applying to this bursary. If in a MA program, the student’s thesis proposal does not necessarily need to have been approved or defended before applying to this bursary.
  • Each student is only admissible for one ACT bursary per degree, and must not have received bursaries, scholarships, fellowships or stipends from ACT in the past (e.g., scholarship or project funding).
  • The student must not plan to have completed their thesis within six months following the bursary application deadline.



First, candidates must submit a single email with two attachments: the completed “ACT Student Bursaries Application Form,” and a Curriculum Vitae that provides an overview of the student’s accomplishments and research record. Second, the supporting ACT co-applicant or collaborator must send an email with two attachments: the completed “ACT Student Bursaries Support Form” and a letter of recommendation. Third, if the student’s thesis supervisor is not the sponsoring ACT co-applicant and collaborator, the student’s thesis advisor must send a letter of recommendation.

All documents must be emailed to application@actproject.ca for the appropriate due date. No late applications will be considered.



Students: Successful applicants must commit to fulfilling a number of requirements. The student will be asked to work with the ACT team to share information on the project for reporting and communication purposes. This includes providing the necessary information to set up a project page on the ACT website, a biography and photo, and other information, as requested. Furthermore, the student will be required to acknowledge the support of ACT and its funders, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), in research outputs, including conference papers, workshops and poster presentations, publications, the final production of their thesis and any creative or media products of their research.

Supporting co-applicants and collaborators: By supporting an application, the co-applicant or collaborator must be able to recommend to ACT  that the student should be funded. The sponsoring co-applicant or collaborator must also be willing and able to facilitate the payment of the bursary by their institution using ACT funds; as such, they must be able to receive the funds from ACT via an institutional transfer.


Related Documents

ACT Student Bursaries February 2018 Call
ACT Student Bursaries Application Form 
ACT Student Bursaries Support Form

Trent University Postdoctoral Fellowship Opportunity: 2018

Applications are invited for the following postdoctoral research opportunity:

Position title: Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Culture and Quantified Aging

Supervisor: Dr. Barbara L. Marshall, Department of Sociology, Trent University

Location: Trent University, Peterborough, ON

We are seeking an emerging researcher to work with us on a SSHRC-funded project on “Digital Culture and Quantified Aging”. This project is funded by a 5-year Insight Grant (2017-2022), and the research team includes Dr. Barbara L. Marshall (Trent University, Principal Investigator), Dr. Stephen Katz (Trent University, Co-investigator), Dr. Isabel Pedersen (UOIT, Co-Investigator) and Dr. Wendy Martin (Brunel University London, Collaborator). We anticipate a start date in the spring of 2018 for this one-year position (with the possibility of extension).

Full invitation here: Trent University Post Doctoral Fellowship 2018

“Without the grandmas, there is no revolution”

Catalan emotions ran high in September and October 2017. On October 1st, the population was called to an independence referendum. The pro-independence movement is a bottom-up movement that transverses across age groups. Of interest is the strong commitment of the older generations. While it might be too early for an in-depth analysis, three elements should be considered to justify this particularity. First, the willingness of the older people to get involved in the protests – a must in grassroots movements. Second, the public recognition of the role of older people now and during the dictatorship. And third, older people’s active participation in the digital spaces that articulate and support the movement.

Kim Sawchuk

Kim Sawchuk

Kim Sawchuk, Principal Investigator of the ACT team,  is a Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Concordia University and the Concordia University Research Chair in Mobile Media Studies. Sawchuk has been writing on age, ageing and its cultural impact since 1996. She is most well-known for her research on “seniors and cell phones” conducted with Dr Barbara Crow of York University as well her research-creation work in Critical Disability Studies. Sawchuk is a co-founder of the Mobile Media Lab (York-Concordia) located in Concordia’s Department of Communication Studies. She has just completed a six-year term as the editor of the Canadian Journal of Communications (www.cjc-online.ca) and she is the co-editor of Wi: journal of mobile media (www.wi-not.ca). In addition to her academic research, in 1996 Sawchuk co-founded of StudioXX,  a feminist research and media arts centre in Montréal.