An interview with John Pickering

May 13, 2022

Tell us about yourself.

I am currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Gerontology Research Centre as the holder of the Real Estate Foundation of BC postdoctoral fellowship. My disciplinary background is actually in human geography, more specifically health geography and health services research. My connection to gerontology came out of my doctoral research, which was focused on older Canadians who leave Canada during the winter months to enjoy warm climates elsewhere. The focus on older adults shifted my interests into the geographical gerontology realm and, in turn, made this position a perfect fit.

What current research are you working on?

I have a few research foci at the moment. I am currently conducting two parallel review studies focusing on the lived experiences of older adults during the Covid-19 global pandemic. One review focuses on social isolation and loneliness, while the other looks at resilience. In terms of research still within the conceptual phase, I am looking at the WHO Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities (GNAFCC) to see what member cities have implemented into the built environment to facilitate positive and healthy ageing.

What do you most enjoy about working with the GRC?

Well, I’ve been here for about two months now and haven’t found much to complain about. This is a small, but ultra-productive group of ageing experts. I guess the most enjoyable aspect of the GRC has been the collegiality, openness and kindness of everyone. I felt welcomed and appreciated from the moment I started here and that opened the door for some exciting opportunities to collaborate.

What brought you to Simon Fraser University?

I was fortunate to have met an amazing mentor, Dr. Tony Gatrell (Lancaster University, UK), through a family friend back in 2015. At that time, I had lived in Japan for just over 10 years and needed some guidance to navigate my way back into academia. Dr. Gatrell, who is an esteemed health geographer and emeritus professor, helped introduce me to who would become my supervisor here at SFU, Dr. Valorie Crooks. Dr. Crooks had spent her fist sabbatical at Lancaster University and worked directly with Dr. Gatrell. After a few lengthy chats with Dr. Crooks, she and I were able to decide on a course of research which would satisfy both our interests and connect to her expertise. The rest, as they say, is history.

What inspired you to study aging/gerontology?

I had a number of experiences growing up which drew me to aging research and inspired me to want to learn more. As a child, my maternal grandfather was the building manager for an assisted living facility and took me to work quite a few times. This was my first experience in recognising the changes in lifestyle that come with older age. When I was in high school, I

played music at local nursing homes catering to older individuals who needed full time care. Finally, my own maternal grandmother suffered from dementia and rapidly deteriorated at the end of her life. Her declined necessitated a move into a care facility that my grandfather wasn’t eligible to move to. This disruption to they lives was heartbreaking to witness and caused me to question if there was a better way to help older couples dealing with significant health issues and cognitive decline. All of these experiences led me to becomes fascinated by all of the different paths people take as they age and the way it impacts one’s lived experience.

What interests do you have outside of your research?

Many, perhaps even too many to name here, but I’ll do my best.

Having lived in Japan for 11 years and 11 months, I am very interested in Japanese culture and most things Japanese. I am actually fairly adept at making (moderately) authentic sushi and love to eat soba and ramen. I’m also a bit of a sports enthusiast (NFL, NHL, EPL, etc.) with a strong interest in statistics. I try to live an active life, depending on the season. During the summer month I am an avid outdoors lover and enjoy golfing whenever possible and camping with my family. During the winters I often ski in Whistler. Finally, I am a musician and have been in numerous bands as a singer, songwriter, guitarist and bassist. Most recently I have been playing music as a duo with my wife.

What are your goals for your time at the GRC?

My main goal at the GRC is to collaborate with as many members as possible and to continue building my skills as a researcher. As I mentioned earlier, I have considerable respect for the GRC members and feel so fortunate to have this opportunity. My longer-term goals are to continue building my own research focus, agenda and grant funding portfolio to have success as a productive faculty member moving forward in my career.

Celebrating 40 years