Active Ageing, Mobile Technologies is the title of the SSHRC Partnership Development Grant that is funding the development of this nascent international, multidisciplinary partnership. The grant brings together a team of researchers and community partners from Malaysia, Catalonia, Canada and Quebec whose goal is to better understand the intersections between communications, ageing and mobility. The goal of the grant is not just to create knowledge, but to create connection. In our case we are consolidating a team of researchers who share a commitment to expanding our knowledge of how older adults, primarily over the age of 65, engage with communications and media technologies in this present moment.
We also advocate for the centrality of communications and media within the current active ageing agenda. Active ageing is a buzz word currently circulating in government and industry, who wish to address the world-wide trend to an ageing population. In discussions of active ageing, the areas of health, education and participation typically are named as key elements to living a qualitatively better life. What is absent from much of the literature, is a consideration of the key role of communications, media or new technologies, as components of this strategy. Likewise, within industry documents and academic writings on media and technology, those who are 60+ are typically missing. The goal of our research partnership is to identify, understand, and to see what steps might be taken to rectify this double absence. The AAMT project is also motivated by the need to place these issues within local contexts, yet to share these contexts in an international or more global framework.
At our July meeting (Barcelona), the group began to decide what pilot projects they might wish to undertake under the aegis of the grant. The institutions of pilot projects was particularly important for researchers on the grant just entering into the area of ageing and mobilities. Others in the group have use the partnership to contribute to current projects they are undertaking, (such as Seniors and Cells), connected to the theme of active ageing and media, cultural or communications. Between meetings we discuss our progress via email and Skype. We have attended conference together, and we offer feedback and advice to each other in order to make our relationship one of collaboration. We are not only interdisciplinary in our backgrounds, but in our approaches which encompass quantitative and qualitative methods and more creative forms of research-production.
At the October meeting the group decided that a web site/blog/virtual research space to publicly announce our activities and to keep track of our progress was necessary. It was at this time that we also decided to make the name of our site A-C-M, Ageing-Communication-Media, a title we felt better reflected the range of research being undertaken by the partnership.
The theme of mobility and mobile media continues to play a central role in all of the research. However, the focus on “mobile media” or cell phones, as they say in Canada, was deemed too limiting. While there is more uptake, globally, of mobile media devices within the seniors population the team soon realized that with continual changes in digital forms of communications that a more expansive program of inquiry would be necessary. While the turn to wireless mobile communications is a strong under-current, the question of how these devices are used as part of a larger mobile assemblage, or constitute one option within a larger repertoire of possibilities means that other forms of digital media technologies and emergent practices within the “elderscape” are emerging as equally important to address.