As graduate students in the field of aging, we often find ourselves so immersed in the theoretical and empirical content of our field, that the very subject of our interest—older people—becomes peripheral to our everyday work. Importantly, it has recently come to our attention that with the demographic shift, innovative initiatives to tackle stereotypes of aging and ageism have yet to be made. In a ‘Humans of New York’ fashion we thought that by providing snapshots of the everyday lives of Hamilton’s older people, beyond the extremes and picturesque ideals promoted by the media, one will be able to view what seniors really look like and hear their stories, in a manner void of negative or positive connotations. In May 2017, Members of the Gilbrea Student Group at McMaster University successfully received a Student Proposals for Intellectual Community & Engaged Scholarship (SPICES) grant with the goal to represent aging as it truly is. A true passion project for our group, we hoped to conquer ageism, mitigate the stereotypes associated with aging and shine a light on the everyday lives of seniors in the Hamilton community. We think we’ve done our goal justice.
We began the project with a focus group, where five seniors from the community gave us their input on our initial ideas, name and goals of the project. We got wonderful and encouraging feedback, and used that to move forward, ensuring that we maintained our goal of representing seniors the way they wanted to be represented.
We then met with seniors at a time and place of their choosing, and listened to their stories and took their photos. We met all of them somewhere that was an everyday part of their lives, at events, somewhere they enjoyed being, where they would want to be captured or doing something they loved. We asked questions about their lives and about what aging means to them. We then distributed these images on our social media to reach as many and this photobook is the result of those meetings, stories, and photos.
Our final goal was to showcase our project in a photo-exhibit event in the heart of Hamilton, where the public was welcome to come and see the everyday lives and stories of people in their community.
Over the past year, the Seniors of Canada team has been putting together images and stories of some amazing seniors in the Hamilton area, and it’s finally time for everyone to see what we’ve been working so hard on. And now we’re here, presenting our pictures and stories in a book that sums up the spirit of our project; that aging is a natural part of life and that being a senior doesn’t make your life or story any less valuable or interesting.
In the pages to come, you’ll see and read the photos and stories of seniors in the Hamilton Community including a Seniors of Canada initiative: Iconic Ageing. We hope you enjoy seeing the project and that it challenges your notions about ageism and the aging process.