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Gerontology professor Sarah Canham


Aging research seek solutions to homelessness among Canada’s older population

June 17, 2021

Simon Fraser University gerontology adjunct professor Sarah Canham is leading a research project examining how to support older people experiencing homelessness in three Canadian cities. The Aging in the Right Place (AIRP) initiative is receiving funding, announced this week, from the National Housing Strategy’s Collaborative Housing Research Network (CHRN).

The AIRP partnership is a five year, three-city project to evaluate innovative solutions to supporting older people who are experiencing homelessness. 

Canham says researchers in Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver are working with housing providers and stakeholders to bring a partnered, community-based approach to measuring “what works, why it works, and for whom it works.”

The initiative involves identifying best practices for supporting older adults who are experiencing homelessness to age well in community. “We need to recognize that where an older person lives impacts their ability to age optimally, and must match their unique lifestyles and vulnerabilities,” says Canham.

While Canada’s population of older adults who have experienced homelessness is on the rise, they’ve been “largely invisible” in terms of research. “Though there are many different programs in place across the country, there is no clear ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution,” she says.

The project aims to build capacity and knowledge to bridge gaps between research and practice, and promote policies that are proven to support aging in the right place for older people.

More than two dozen co-applicants and collaborators, 40 partner organizations, and nine older advisors with lived experience of homelessness, are among participants.

The AIRP initiative is gaining financial support from nearly $14 million in funding from the CHRN allocated to housing research.

The CHRN is an independent, Canada-wide collaboration of academics and community partners that will generate new knowledge to support housing policy decision-making and inform future program development.

Approximately $7.9M of the funds have been committed to the CHRN for its initial five years to undertake research related to seniors’ homelessness and affordable housing. The funding was announced by Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and the Minister responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.