Aging, Health and Well-Being PhD Candidate (Recreation and Leisure Studies)

Ashley Flanagan standing in hallwayIncluding diverse aging perspectives

Ashley Flanagan brings gender identity and aging to the forefront with her dissertation research, “My research examines the aging experiences and perceptions of transgender adults as they negotiate the successes and challenges of old age”. Specifically, her work looks to challenge our often taken-for-granted understandings of aging, gender, and identity so that we may reconsider definitions of aging that are more inclusive and representative of our diverse communities. Theories and conceptual frameworks often view aging as a binary experience, such as ‘healthy vs. sick’, which fails to capture the uniqueness and complexity of individuals—in particular, transgender older adults. By critiquing and questioning these dominant discourses, Ashley hopes to promote equity and acceptance within our health care system, particularly within the long-term care sector,

“I would like to start working with long-term care homes to create policies and practices that help transgender older adults feel respected and at home in the event aging services become necessary… it’s not something that aging-related services are prepared for at the moment”.

Ashley’s determination to support transgender older adults is the result of a culmination of personal and academic experiences that involved instances of discrimination and prejudice, “I felt a growing interest and obligation, I felt like I couldn’t do anything else – I had to keep going”.

More than a just a supervisor

Within the AHWB program, Ashley feels supported by her supervisor Professor Lisbeth Berbary to take on her dissertation research,

“She’s more of a mentor and has taught me so much over the last three years. I’ve just grown so much as a person, as an academic, as a student.”

Amongst her peers, Ashley knows that she can call on other doctoral students, both from her department and within the AHWB program to collaborate with and find encouragement from, “There’s so much support in terms of having people to bounce ideas off of, having people to vent frustrations to, and to really be challenged to think critically and theoretically about why you’re doing what you’re doing”.

Affiliation: 
University of Waterloo, Recreation and Leisure Studies