GRC News Special Edition

June 06, 2020


We are pleased to distribute the GRC News COVID-19 Special Issue. The title: Risk, Response, and Resilience in an Aging COVID-19 World reflects the nexus of positive and negative responses to these challenges, including innovation in basic and applied community-based research and development. We are inspired by the fact that over 20 articles were written by faculty, research staff, graduate students, and our student alumni in response to a request by the Gerontology Research Centre and Department. We also invited seniors to add their voice to this compilation of pandemic perspectives.

Excerpt from GRC Director Andrew Wister's Foreword:

The current COVID-19 pandemic has raised the profile of gerontology and alerted experts working in academic, government, community and private sectors to a new set of challenges. Older adults are at an increased risk of experiencing deleterious outcomes if they contract COVID-19, ranging from lasting health complications to mortality. They are also more challenged than most individuals and families with respect to adaptations to the physical distancing policy. These inequities are most pronounced for the most vulnerable older people in society, especially those living in long term care, assisted living or congregate care environments. The majority of COVID-19 deaths have been among this group. Furthermore, even though most older adults living in the community in private households are relatively healthy and active, the pandemic has produced greater levels of stress, social isolation and barriers to meet day-to-day needs. Physical distancing has exacerbated many of the social issues that many older individuals face, covering a large spectrum of health care, economic, physiological, social and psychological issues.

In response to this fluid and complex crisis that poses a plethora of unanswered questions, the GRC and Gerontology Department decided to invite articles and commentaries from faculty, research staff, graduate students and our student alumni to apply their area of gerontological expertise to the COVID-19 pandemic. We also invited seniors to add their voice to this compilation of pandemic perspectives. Remarkably, the GRC received 20 article and commentaries in support of this Special Issue. The notion of resilience is foundational, since it captures the ability to bounce back from adversity, and balances pathogenic and salutogenic responses and outcomes (Antonovsky, 1979; Wister et al., 2016; 2020). The topics cover many issues relevant to persons working in the field of aging as researchers, students, and the many groups and organizations that provide services to older people, as well as seniors themselves. The areas are expansive, covering health care and community care systems, housing/homelessness, families, physical and mental health, death and dying, ageism, and personal experiences among others. These articles and commentaries underscore the need for action, in terms of filling knowledge and data gaps, policy reform, and community-based approaches to supporting older people during this and future pandemics. Two themes run through these pieces — first, the need to think about how COVID-19 social problems have exposed a myriad of  issues that will require our attention as we move beyond this pandemic; and second, the amazing ability of people and communities to coalesce around these challenges.