Belonging and Connection

Developing connections with ourselves, others, community, and nature can deepen our sense of belonging. To experience belonging, we need to trust how we connect. Research shows that connection and belonging positively correlate to a strong identity and clarified sense of purpose, thereby making our mastery of both vital to our general well-being in our latter life stages. Grounded in a diversity of psychological theories, we'll focus on different dimensions of belonging and connection, beginning with how our connection to ourselves helps create the foundation for authentic belonging with the world.

A $50 discount will be applied automatically for adults 55+.

Currently not available for registration.

Schedule clarification: This is a four-week online course. It runs from Monday, January 11 to Friday, February 5. Each week, all week, you can study that week’s material, post and respond to messages, and engage in course activities. Students enrolled in Section 1 will participate in live videoconferencing sessions each Thursday from 1–2:30 p.m. PT; students enrolled in Section 2 will participate in live videoconferencing sessions each Wednesday from 3-4:30 p.m. PT.

Learning objectives

By the end of the course, you should be able to do the following:

  • Identify some of the main philosophical and psychological perspectives of connection and belonging
  • Describe the inherent value of connection and belonging to self, others, community and nature
  • Explain the significance of connection and belonging specific to the psychological needs of the older adult
  • Discuss your own strengths, capacities and skills that make connection and belonging possible, even during a pandemic

Learning methods

Your online learning will include the following methods:

  • PowerPoint lectures
  • Optional readings and references
  • Participation in written discussion with other students
  • Participation in a weekly videoconference seminar

For Liberal Arts for 55+ Certificate students: you will write a reflective essay.


Week 1: Introduction: Why do connection and belonging matter?

Only connect. ~ E. M. Forster
What does it really mean to connect? To belong? How do these terms differ? We explore some of the current research on the psychological significance of connection and belonging specific to older adults, and consider the contributing factors that enhance the possibility of connection and belonging in our lives.

Week 2: Connecting with ourselves: Who am I?

Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. ~ Parker Palmer
We learn about a number of philosophical and psychological approaches to the concept of the self, and the question of reliability of self-knowledge (including acquaintance, inner sense and rationalist theories). We also map out possible practices for responding to this perennial philosophical challenge.

Week 3: Connecting with one another: Friendship and communication

I felt it shelter to speak to you. ~ Emily Dickinson
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. ~ George Bernard Shaw

Although the quality of our friendships has been shown to correlate positively to the overall quality of our lives, friendship itself has been relatively neglected as a research subject. We explore friendship from a range of perspectives: historical, philosophical and psychological. Understanding the nature of communication as the primary catalyst for meaningful connection, particularly in friendship, affords us an opportunity to further develop our skills and sensitivity to this critical aspect of belonging.

Week 4: Finding our place and finding our people: Connection in community

There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about. ~ Margaret J. Wheatley
In this post-modern, somewhat fragmented, urban and increasingly online world in which we live, what, exactly, is a community? And how do we know whether we belong? Or whether we want to? Understanding the diverse ways community can be defined, the nature of community functioning, and indications of and challenges of belonging can clarify and strengthen our relationship to it.

We will then conclude with…

Where the wild things are: Connection to the natural world

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone. ~ Rachel Carson
How can we find belonging in the natural world while simultaneously witnessing its degradation in the Anthropocene age? Referring to the theoretical foundations of the emergent field of ecopsychology, we apply those insights to our lived experience of the natural world. We consider the vast range of practices that can connect us to the natural world, not the least of which are creativity, awe and wonder.

Books, materials and resources

You will access reading material using SFU's online course management system, Canvas.

Technical requirements

This course is delivered using SFU's online learning system, Canvas. You can check if your browser is compatible with Canvas here.  

To get the most out of this online course, you should be comfortable doing the following:

  • Using everyday software such as browsers, email and social media
  • Navigating a website by clicking on links and finding pages in a menu
  • Downloading and opening PDF documents
  • Posting, replying and uploading images to a discussion board
  • Participating in videoconferencing sessions

You will be participating in videoconferencing using Zoom Meetings. For this, your computer needs to have a camera, microphone and speakers or headphones. Your computer software should be up to date with the latest available operating system and browser versions.

Accessing your course

  • A few days before the course starts, we will email you more information about the course and how you'll access it. You will also receive an email inviting you to access the Canvas learning platform (click on the link in the invitation to join the course). Once you’ve accessed Canvas, you can begin exploring the platform on your own. The full course will be accessible on its start date.
  • We’ll also host a virtual drop-in time on Zoom Meetings a few days before the course starts. This will give you a chance to check that you can access Zoom Meetings, and that your computer’s camera and microphone and speakers are working properly.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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