Scholarship and Synergies: Ageing and the Humanities – By Stephanie Hatzifilalithis

Published: Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Gilbrea Student Group member Stephanie Hatzifilalithis was awarded a Gilbrea Travel Award to facilitate her travel to the Canadian Association on Gerontology 2017 conference.

Having an educational background in Cognitive Neuroscience and now focus in Social Gerontology, Professor O’Neill’s keynote address entitled “Scholarship and Synergies: Ageing and the Humanities” captivated my interest. Prof O’Neill is a medical gerontologist at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Although trained as a medical doctor, Prof O’Neill has focused on work that collaboratively engages a wide range of disciplines, including scholars in the humanities, neurosciences, artists, ethicists, architects and musicians, and is passionately interested in developing the process of interdisciplinary research on the themes of aging and memory. Prof O’Neill is an advocate for the integration and uptake of the humanities in the medical field and has made a significant impact to the field of gerontology and geriatrics.

Prof O’Neill’s research and presentation focused on quality of life aspects of care and the therapeutic value of art in healthcare, with specific reference to Dementia. Although at first the disciplines might seem strikingly distinct, the synergies and potential strengths this cross-disciplinary lens holds can have significant implications on the well-being of people with dementia and older people in general. The utility of arts-based methodologies is on the rise in social research, a trend that was apparent in sessions and presentations held by Dr. Pia Kontos that were based on dementia and elder clowning, digital storytelling, theatre and dance. I have always found atypical interdisciplinary work fascinating and highly relevant in the field of aging- an inherently transdisciplinary field. Prof O’Neill’s keynote was able to encourage and advocate for the arts and their involvement in research and practice. This line of work has intriguing possibilities, and seems to be gaining traction as a research approach in gerontology. By engaging in the scholarship that involves the integration of various disciplinary perspectives one can see the significant value these synergies add to the research process, practice, communities and policies in our field of interest.

Thank you to the Gilbrea Centre for Studies in Aging, CAG’s Legacy fund and the Department of Health, Aging and Society at McMaster University for the opportunity to witness cutting edge research and development in the field of Gerontology. 

“Scholarship and Synergies: Ageing and the Humanities”: Keynote Lecture. Thursday October 19, 2017.