Program of Research
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)
In 2018 I completed 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. Our team expanded for a subsequent study of safety in differing settings and relations of care, led by Dr. Rachel Herron at Brandon University.
I recently completed a SSHRC Insight Grant with a 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 continuing to publish findings (including those from two surveys of public preferences for location of dying/death) in the coming months.
I also have an interest in how older adults and family carers become mobilized to create structural changes in systems. In one internal grant with Dr. Andrea Rounce (Political Studies) and Danielle Cherpako (MA Student, Political Studies), we examined how older adults and their carers are engaged in democratic governance processes in Manitoba. One paper has been published in the Journal of Aging and Social Change (contact me for access). Since 2021, I’ve also been leading a SSHRC-funded team seeking to expand feminist theories of care and social movement activism with a focus on everyday citizenship and politicization.
In 2023-2025, as Faculty of Arts Social Science Research Professor at the University of Manitoba, I’m running a scholarly inquiry inspired by some of my recent involvement in community-based projects on housing for older adults. Sociology graduate student Andrea McDougall and I are exploring how low-income older adults in rental housing access formal and informal supports in these settings.
Lastly, I am well-known for a separate line of research several years ago, into the phenomenon of Living Apart Together especially as this phenomenon is expressed among older adults.
In recent years I have contributed to the public discourse on care work through various Op-Eds (e.g., 2020, 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.
In 2021, Nursing professor Jamie Penner and PhD students Lisette Dansereau and Kaitlyn Kuryk and I conducted a survey of family caregivers in Manitoba about their experiences during the early years of the Covid-19 pandemic. The final English language report for the survey can be found at this link. A French-language translation can be found at this link.***
- 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), SOC 7420 (Qualitative Research Methods for Sociological Inquiry), and SOC 3450 (Sociological Perspectives on Social Determinants of Health). In 2022, I have started teaching a special topics course in the sociology of death and dying. Message me for past examples of course outlines. 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 2023, I was honoured to receive a teaching award from the Arts Student Body Council.
In 2016, I published the text Sociological Perspectives on Aging for Oxford University Press and currently use it in my own teaching.