Mundane Media Moments: Ageing, The Ordinary, and Everyday Life

On Wednesday June 26 ACT and  the Socio-gerontology Network hosted a panel discussion titled Mundane Media Moments: Ageing, the Ordinary and Everyday Life. Dr. Alexander Peine (chair of the Socio-gerontechnology Network) set the scene and moderated the discussion as a group of scholars shared their recent work and thoughts on how aging, the mundane, and technology are entangled. The question at the forefront of conversation was “How does the mundane matter?’. The audience and scholars were asked to consider how our daily practices are transformed by and with the technology in our lives. The panel moves past the assumption that technology is only worthwhile for its designed value and techno-optimist narratives about emerging designs.

Dr. Wendy Martin opened the panel discussion by highlighting just how much of what we do is “unremarkable”. Reframing the concept of mundane towards unremarkability, evaluates how human routine is interspersed with technology. Through a series of photos, Dr. Martin’s talk emphasized the tempo-spatial qualities of technology and their role within our daily routine. Martin highlighted how the pandemic puts into focus how the “mundane keeps us moving day by day” by helping us deal with challenging times and pointing to a relationship with technology when we think of what is missing.

Dr. Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol continued to explore the nature of the pandemic and the mundane by pointing to the insignificant ordinary questions we ask ourselves and others. Ordinary behaviours, like checking in with a friend, can quickly become remediated as our lives change. For her, the pandemic illuminates the mutability of mundane technologies where our communication goals change alongside our lives. Of course the pandemic was not the only focus, but rather it showed how some of our practices are typically rendered invisible until our lives begin to change. As our contexts change and we age, how we communicate and engage with technology does as well.

Providing tangible examples of this life-technology relationship, Dr. Galit Nimrod revisited their work on casual leisure with Grannies on the Net. Through rich focus group data, Nimrod pointed to casual leisure as a time filler commonly mediated by technology use. Unlike serious leisure that can quickly be tied to productive activities or “side-hustles”, a focus on casual leisure for older adults points to the various everyday life circumstances that they arise from. Time fillers are one example of a typically insignificant media moment that requires greater consideration.

Closing off the discussions, Dr. Daniel Lopez discussed ethnographic work on an app meant to counter older adult isolation. It explored how technology opens up new communication affordances for older adults, specifically focusing on memes. Memes, visual and textual images shared via a chat feature, completely altered the nature of communication on these devices and promoted specific behaviours through the app. Lopez’s work showed the paradoxes of technological affordances for altering communication. On the one hand, memes acted as an easy means to share and an inclusive form of communication. On the other hand, as more memes were posted the technology began to have storage issues and further isolated users by kicking them off the network. This relationship between everyday use and technology points to the need for research on the mundane forms of communication in our lives.

The panel ended with a series of questions posed by the audience which considered technological binaries, the nature of problematic technological actions (i.e., privacy),  and how this exploration of the mundane directly feeds into policy and research directions. The panel proved fruitful in fostering dialogue between leading scholars whose work intersects age with socio-technology. ACT is so grateful to have co-hosted this lovely event and if you are interested the full video is available for view below.

Paper or Plastic Right to Your Door

When the pandemic rolled into Montreal in the early days of March, ACT decided to work with its local Montreal allies to support older adults in the Montreal community. We set up a grocery delivery project for older adults who were asked by government authorities to remain confined in their homes.


ACT partnered with Stephanie Dupont, a community organizer for the CIUSSS Centre-Ouest, as well as New Hope Seniors’ Centre, a community organization that works with isolated older adults. We launched our project in late March in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (NDG) neighbourhood of Montreal, where our Concordia University campus is based.

The local Meals on Wheels program had temporarily shut down because of COVID-19, and the NDG Grocery Response team looked to take over the client list and offer their services to other seniors in need. Creating a partnership with a local grocery store, the team set up a grocery ordering and delivery service that could get food to seniors within three days (sometimes even the same day). Recruiting volunteers from Concordia and from the community, the NDG Grocery Response project launched a phone service which older adults and isolated individuals could call. Callers would leave a message asking either for help with groceries or questions about the service. These messages would be dispatched to our team of volunteers who call back the clients and help them fill out an order.

As the project is now in its third month our client list has become relatively steady. Many of our volunteers have created strong relationships with our callers. While the project’s primary goal was to help food insecurity, combating isolation especially during a pandemic was almost as important. Volunteers were encouraged to have casual conversations with older adults, and many developed positive relationships that, for some, even extended beyond our program.

An important part of the project involved designing tools and promising practices for the implementation of similar projects across communities. A number of initiatives–beyond NDG–have drawn from the tools that were developed as part of this project, and ACT and its community partners have worked with other groups to help them start up their own grocery delivery service.

While the city starts to slowly re-open, the service is not going away anytime soon. Despite stores opening and people going back to work, programs like the local Meals on Wheels are still shut down, and many seniors prefer not venturing to the grocery store.. In fact, the project has brought to light the fact that seniors deal with food insecurity and difficulty accessing grocery store products in our neighbourhood for a number of reasons, not just because of a pandemic and physical distancing measures. With our partners, we are working to see how we can contribute to building lasting measures for a more food secure community.


Here is some early media coverage of the project:


“B/OLD: Aging in our city-Vieillir dans notre ville”


By Bipasha Sultana

Thinking about age-friendly cities across communities

Put forth by Concordia’s ACT (Ageing, Communication, Technology) and engAGE, the Centre for Research on Aging, B/OLD is a trilingual (English, French, LSQ) event series that is open to the public, offering a multitude of thought-provoking events. These include panels and keynotes, creative workshops and activities, as well as art exhibitions and kiosks, some of which will be held in Concordia’s newly launched 4th Space.

One of the primary aims of this event lies in forging intersectoral connections between academic researchers, community groups, policy makers and local citizens. This is reflected in panels featuring an eclectic list of speakers, including a discussion between community leaders and city politicians, titled “What is an age friendly city?”

Kim Sawchuk, director of ACT and professor in the Department of Communication Studies, points out: “Our goal is to bring community groups, decisions makers, researchers, activists and citizens into conversation with one another. We hope that B/OLD is the start of a conversation.”

B/OLD also aims to bridge the age-segregation that has falsely come to define certain spaces, particularly campus spaces often occupied by – but by no means restricted to – young adult students.

Provoking conversations through fun activities

In an effort to disrupt the age-specific homogeneity of campus spaces, creative workshops and activities offered during B/OLD are tailored to all age groups, with a keen focus on issues unique to the older adult population. For instance, a Graffiti Workshop invites participants to engage in an intergenerational artistic collaboration to address the question of “who is allowed to leave their mark on the city?”

Visitors can also look forward to a much-anticipated “Escape Room on Elder Abuse”. Escape rooms are live-action, collaborative games that ask players to search for clues in order to solve physical and mental puzzles as they move through a room. Solving the puzzles leads players to exit the room and win the game. B/OLD’s escape room was designed to offer an accessible and engaging way for players to identify clues of abuse commonly experienced by vulnerable older adults, with the end goal of recognizing and symbolically “escaping” the game’s cycle of abuse.

Exploring a sensitive topic like elder abuse through an Escape Room helps participants engage in active, hands-on learning to recognize the subtleties of elder abuse.

According to Shannon Hebblewaite, director of engAGE and associate professor in the Department of Applied Human Sciences, “B/OLD is a collaborative effort to its core. We are pleased to create opportunities to exchange knowledge and learn from one another. By bringing together older adults, researchers, and policy makers to share their perspectives on aging in the city, we expect some lively conversations that will help ground research and practice in a better understanding of older people themselves.”

B/OLD: Aging in our city, is open to the public and will be taking place on May 16th and 17th throughout the SGW campus and in the 4th Space. You can find out more about the event’s programming on the B/OLD website.

Shirley Curry Slays (Dragons)

From behind two monitors, a custom-built computer and a high-quality keyboard and mouse, Shirley Curry says, “give me that soul of the dragon.” She has just fired an iron arrow into its hide. After weeks of preparing for this battle, the 82-year-old gamer is content with her victory.

Expanding our understanding of activism(s) by sharing stories of older activists

In their recently released book, Unsettling Activisms: Critical Interventions on Aging, Gender, and Social Change (Women’s Press, 2018), editors May Chazan, Melissa Baldwin, and Patricia Evans present compelling reasons why our common perceptions of activisms and activists need to be expanded; specifically, expanded to include the work of older women activists.

Creating spaces for dialogue and critical exploration at GUSEGG 2018

Each year in July, GUSEGG provides a unique opportunity for professors and students from around the world to explore new ideas and dive into challenging topics. It is intensive, personal, intimate, and distinct from a typical university setting. Students and professors learn together from early morning until late evening in a setting where critical thought and challenging conversations extend beyond the walls of the classroom.

CRTC opens inquiry into misleading or aggressive practices of telecommunication services providers

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has recently opened an official inquiry into the “use of misleading or aggressive telecommunications services providers.” And, as of August 2018, we are actively encouraging Canadians – especially older adults – to participate in this important consultation process.