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Finding Gerontology — Shelby Elkes (MA Student)

October 08, 2019

Finding Gerontology is a series of stories highlighting the students that make up the Gerontology Program at SFU.

I always knew I wanted to collaborate and work in the health and aging sector, deciding on a profession however was not as obvious. Growing up in the small town of Drumheller Alberta, I was lucky enough to live a bike ride away from both sets of grandparents and their siblings (keeping in mind that you can bike across the entire length of Drumheller in 30–45 minutes). I spent my weekends and summers gardening in their backyards, sharing tables at pancake breakfast halls and keenly listening to their heated gossip about someones-sisters-friends-brother who didn’t invite them to their wedding, over ice cream. As I entered my teenage years, I often humbly teased that I spent more time with them than my own generation, and I preferred it that way.

After completing my degree in Psychology, I moved to Vancouver to experience the “mild winters” everyone excitedly talked about back home (and for the record, being able to go outside 12 months of the year without your face stinging, is still a surreal experience for me). While here, I began searching for educational opportunities to pursue work focused on improving quality of life for aging adults. I started leaning towards rehabilitation programs, like Occupational Therapy, as it focused on the adaption of the environment to suit individual needs.

One day while researching the various OT programs across Canada and the US, I came across one that coupled the Masters program with a certificate in Gerontology. Never having heard of the field, I explored it further – and that’s when everything fell into place. It was exactly what I had been searching for all this time. With renewed excitement, I found the MA Gerontology program here at Simon Fraser University and the rest is history.

I’m only one month in, and already I’m incredibly inspired and grateful to be surrounded by the research and passion each staff, student and faculty member exudes for this field everyday. My broad research focus is on modifying the built environment to facilitate accessibility and mobility within the community and home, to further support aging in place. I have special interests in the implementation of assistive gerontechnology as well as policy and program development within communities. Moving forward, I’m excited to build my theoretical and practical knowledge in Gerontology, as well as embrace the many networking opportunities I hope to encounter in both the community and education sector.