Researchers foster social connectedness and resilience among marginalized older adults post-pandemic

September 12, 2023

Andrew Wister, professor and director of the Gerontology Research Centre at Simon Fraser University (SFU) has been awarded funding through the Social Sciences and Humanities Council (SSHRC) Insight Grants. 

This major grant will enable Canadian researchers to enhance social connectedness among older adults. The co-investigators on this project include: Mélanie Levasseur, Université de Sherbrooke; Laura Kadowaki, SFU; Lun Li, MacEwan University; Ruth Ndjaboue, Université de Sherbrooke; and Valérie Poulin, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières. The collaborators on this project include: Line Dubé, FADOQ Estrie; Leslie Gaudette, Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of British Columbia (COSCO BC); Kahir Lalji, United Way British Columbia; Barbara McMillan, United Way British Columbia; and senior citizen representatives Danielle Ferron and Kathleen Jamieson. In addition, research affiliates Caroline Francoeur, Université de Sherbrooke, and John Pickering, SFU, will be assisting on this project.

In addition to the SSHRC grant, a Mitacs Accelerate grant entitled, “Social Connectedness Among Marginalized Older Adults and Caregivers: Building Capacity within COSCO,” will support a graduate research assistant on this project. This grant is a partnership with community collaborator Leslie Gaudette, COSCO BC.

Wister’s project, “Social Connectedness and Resilience Among Marginalized Older Adults and Caregivers: Co-Produced Intersectoral Knowledge Implemented with Community Organizations” will examine how to foster social connections and resilience post-pandemic among four groups of older adults (65+) identified as being at high risk for social isolation : 1) invisible minorities; 2) those with symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression; 3) those with challenges completing daily tasks such as dressing, cooking, shopping, transportation, and cleaning the home; and 4) their caregivers. Three specific objectives are to:

  1. Establish a research network of advocacy groups and organizations providing services to older adults and their caregivers in British Columbia (BC) and Quebec (QC) to (a) define social isolation challenges for marginalized older adults and (b) help review academic research on the target groups.
  2. Co-develop an evidence-based response to organizational needs that will serve as a platform for community deployment based on syntheses, and translation into lay language, of academic research.
  3. Implement priority strategic innovations within and between organizations with common aims and contexts to test the new co-produced approaches and techniques for reducing marginalization and social isolation in the four target groups.

This research will impact the lives of older adults in several ways. First, we will merge academic research (high-level targeted reviews of literature and data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging) based on organizational needs and will translate research-based knowledge into plain language (French and English), practice-oriented formats in collaboration with intersectoral stakeholders interested in fostering greater social connectedness and resilience among older adults. Second, the research team will assess innovations in this area and support the sharing of successful approaches, including several discovery outcomes (e.g., using data to identify risk and resilience factors); and translational outcomes (organizational change and innovative interventions) resulting in greater social impact.


Celebrating 40 years