Dr. Funk’s Program of Research and Approach to Teaching and Mentoring
As a sociologist and social gerontologist, my scholarship enhances understandings of how older adults and paid and unpaid carers interpret experiences, preserve identities, and negotiate normative ideals. My research a) addresses how these processes use and reinforce discourses surrounding age, care and responsibility, and b) interrogates the structures of care for older adults, including the pressing, often invisible impacts on paid and unpaid carers in the context of decades of health reform in Canada.
For instance, I have explored the often-invisible contributions of family carers, including system navigation work (Research Manitoba Establishment Award, 2013-2017), as well as how politically and economically motivated changes in Canadian health and long-term sectors have led to increasing reliance on volunteers and paid companions (Centre on Aging Research Fellowship, 2012) and complicated the emotional labour of nurses and health care aides (Riverview Health Centre Grant, 2012)
Recently I led a SSHRC Insight Development Grant (2016-2018) examining how people working and interacting with older adults in different situations (as well as media coverage of this topic) interpret the meaning of aggression and violence. A publicly available webinar was produced for the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder abuse.
Currently I lead a SSHRC Insight Grant team of researchers using mixed methods to examine the intersection between policy discourse and public understandings of the meaning of dying at home and responsibility for end of life care. We are in the final year of that study and will be releasing findings (including those from two surveys of public preferences for location of dying/death) this year.
I am also completing research funded by an internal grant with Dr. Andrea Rounce (Political Studies) and Danielle Cherpako (MA Student, Political Studies), which examines how older adults and their carers are engaged in democratic governance processes in Manitoba. Two papers are in progress.
Lastly, I am well-known for a separate line of research into the phenomenon of Living Apart Together especially as this phenomenon is expressed among older adults.
Recent Public Sociology
In recent years I have contributed to the public discourse on family caregiving through three Op-Eds (2019, ,2018 and another in 2017 that was recently updated in French language) and a report on system navigation for the Institute for Research on Public Policy (and accompanying podcast interview). In 2019, I received a Recognition Award for Excellence in Research on Unpaid Caregiving from the Canadian Association on Gerontology, and in 2020 I provided a webinar for the association outlining my work on system navigation.
In 2018 I also authored an academic blog post for the International Network on Critical Gerontology. I also frequently provide media interviews on topics ranging from home care, to family caregiving to Living Apart Together.
My other contributions to public sociology focus on enhancing the quality of life of family caregivers and older adults. I disseminate my research to health care practitioners and policy-makers (e.g., Long-Term and Continuing Care Association of Manitoba, Alzheimer’s Society of Manitoba, Manitoba Gerontological Nurses Association). In addition, in 2012 I led a consultation process with 400 family and friend caregivers for Manitoba’s Seniors and Healthy Aging Secretariat.
- BA (Honours) University of British Columbia, Sociology (1997)
- Post-baccalaureate diploma, Simon Fraser University, Gerontology (2000)
- MA, University of Victoria, Sociology (2002), funded by BC Health Research Foundation/Canadian Health Services Research Foundation
- PhD, University of Victoria, Sociology (2008), funded by SSHRC
- Post-doctoral fellowship, University of Victoria, Centre on Aging (2011), funded by CIHR
Most often, I teach SOC 2620 (The Sociology of Aging), and SOC 7420 (Qualitative Research Methods for Sociological Inquiry). I have also taught SOC 3450 (Sociological Perspectives on Social Determinants of Health). Past students have commented that I provide prompt and complete feedback, am well prepared, approachable, helpful, and enthusiastic; these have been identified as principles of effective teaching.
In 2016, I published the text Sociological Perspectives on Aging for Oxford University Press and currently use it in my own teaching.