Seniors of Canada: Hamilton*

Seniors of Canada: Hamilton*

Age is just a number: shedding light on the everyday older person. *The name Seniors of Canada is intended for long-term purposes. We believe that this project has national potential; however, the focus of this project during the 2017-2018 timeframe will be a pilot project taking place in the greater McMaster community of Hamilton, ON in order to more fully develop and understand the potential impact of this project in the community. Therefore, the working title for this segment of the project will be: Seniors of Canada: Hamilton, as we intend to form and elicit the ideas of a collaborative group comprised of older adults living in Hamilton to discuss the appropriateness of the suggested.


What is your project about?

In our ever-growing technologically-mediated society, there is little formal communication between generations. Contemporary society has become age-segregated, providing very few opportunities for social interaction, leading to the intensification of negative stereotypes for older and younger age groups (e.g. younger people believe that older adults do not know how to use the internet). The social divide between younger and older adults can contribute to social exclusion among older adults.  In 2010, the Humans of New York (HONY) began as a photography project with the goal of photographing 10,000 New Yorkers on the street, and eventually creating a catalogue of the city’s inhabitants. Along the way Brandon Stanton, the creator of HONY, began interviewing his subjects including quotes and/or short stories from their lives alongside their portraits. Brandon then continued to distribute these stories and pictures through social media (i.e. Instagram, Facebook). HONY has made a great impact around the globe with its simplistic take on everyday life through the images of everyday people on the streets of New York. The images of everyday people on the streets of New York have provided a worldwide audience with a glimpse into the lives of strangers, thus giving rise to the ‘everyday human'. In this light, many places including McMaster, has adopted this approach, specifically titled, ‘Humans of McMaster’ a similar project with the goal to take a look at the “everyday” student at McMaster. Humans of McMaster now has over 8,000 followers on social media.

Following the models of Humans of New York and Humans of McMaster, The Gilbrea Student Group believes that the idea of portraying older adults “as they are” would be an ideal medium to combat ageism, and overcome common age stereotypes including positive/negative binaries that impact the younger generation today regarding the ageing population. Creating a HONY-type project (Seniors of Canada) within Hamilton, specifically featuring older people, and targeting, but not limited to, the younger generation through social media, could provide a great foundation for an awareness campaign shedding light on “everyday” older people. In doing so, this community project will contribute to enhanced age relations within the Hamilton community, and work towards achieving the inclusive and age-friendly status that the City of Hamilton has specified in their Plan for an Age-Friendly City

What are you going to do?

This project, Seniors of Canada: Hamilton will serve as an initial pilot project to establish our name in the community and form relationships with seniors in the metro-Hamilton area. We anticipate this project will provide an outlet for seniors to express themselves in a way that is genuine and free of judgment. It will also serve as a way for their voices to be heard by their community. We will create social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram) and envision that this grant will support 3 key events/activities/steps to help us to launch the Seniors of Canada social media campaign.

 First, we plan to hold an event with older adults from Hamilton to begin to build relationships and gather content for the campaign. At this event, we will invite seniors from the Gilbrea SHARE (Seniors Helping Advance Research Excellence) group to meet with students from our group to gather feedback regarding the scope of the project and name of the project including to gather our people who would potentially be interested in taking part in the project. This will help establish our ties with the community, enhancing the collaborative intergenerational nature of the project.

Second, we will invite older people to tell their stories, take photographs, engage in intergenerational sharing and work with this initial information to build content for the social media campaign.

Third, we plan to do a launch event to which we would invite the older people who took part, the members of The Hamilton council on Aging, members of the Health, Aging and Society department including the members of the Gilbrea Centre for Studies on Aging (and more) to present the photos and stories in form of a photo-exhibit. We will also provide photo books or pamphlets to give back to the older people and members who participated.We also expect that the photo exhibit event will foster these intergenerational relationships within the Hamilton community.

Why are you doing it?

As graduate students in the field of aging, we often find ourselves so immersed in the theoretical and empirical content of our field, that the very subject of our interest—older people—becomes peripheral to our everyday work. Importantly, it has recently come to our attention that with the growing population age, innovative initiatives to tackle the intergenerational gap have yet to be made. By providing snapshots of the everyday lives of Hamilton’s older people, beyond their aging bodies, beyond their illness, beyond the picturesque ideals promoted by the aging enterprise, one will be able to view what seniors really look like and hear their stories, in a manner void of negative or positive connotations. This project is important because it provides an opportunity for collaboration and engagement across generations, campus and community structures in Hamilton, including the graduate students from various departments, the Gilbrea Centre for Studies in Aging and the department of Health, Aging & Society and the Psychology department. This project highlights the importance of conversations surrounding aging and engages younger generations in discussions that they may not normally engage in regarding the aging population. 

How are you going to do it?

Event #1: We will invite all Gilbrea SHARE members to the Gilbrea Centre for Studies in Aging to gather feedback regarding the scope of the project name of the project and to gather information regarding people who would potentially be interested in taking part in the project. This event will also mark the beginning of the social media campaign (i.e. creation of social media accounts, Facebook, Instagram) we will then start promoting through these accounts  including local newspapers (Hamilton Spectator etc.).


Event #2 The second event will allow us to engage with seniors in the community and begin the picture/storytelling process.  To begin we will be renting media equipment from the Lyons media center here at McMaster University. Specifically, we will be renting cameras for the second and third events. We will then ask our seniors to provide a quote or a story about himself or herself, as seen in our attached image. Stories or quotes could be something that they talk about at the event on that day, what community means to them, what they feel is important to pass along to younger generations, or how Hamilton has changed over their lifetime (not exhaustive list).


Event #3: At our final event we will showcase the pictures and stories taken by printing them and displaying them in the Gilbrea Centre for Studies and Aging. We will invite the members of The Hamilton council on Aging, members of the Health, Aging and Society department including the members of the Gilbrea Centre for Studies on Aging (and more). As a thank-you we would also like to create a photo book or pamphlet that we will distribute to the partaking members at the photo exhibit.  


Ethical considerations are key to this project. We will have the individuals who agree to have their picture taken sign a release form and a consent form acknowledging that the individual consenting understands that their picture and quote will be posted on the social media and website associated with Seniors of Canada: Hamilton. 

What results do you expect?

Over the span of 5 years, HONY has grown to over 20 million followers on social media and has published two bestselling books Humans of New York and Humans of New York Stories. We expect that Seniors of Canada: Hamilton will

  • Develop a following on social media throughout Hamilton
  • Bring attention to the Hamilton community
  • Widely disseminate images of everyday seniors, with an added voice from their quotes
  • Promote a bridge to intergenerational social relations

Social sustainability has increasingly become the focus of policymakers across the globe, with a great focus on intergenerational solidarity. This project will hopefully be a step towards bridging the growing gap between the two-generations. We also expect that all events including the photo exhibit will foster these intergenerational relationships within the Hamilton community. By creating a photo book that will be distributed to the partaking members at the photo exhibit, we will also enhance our presence in the community leading to further development of the project. This project, we believe, has national potential; however, the focus of this project during the 2017-2018 timeframe will be a pilot project to fully develop and understand the potential impact of this project in the community and its wider implications for the intergenerational relationships across all communities in Canada. 


Stephanie Hatzifilalithis / Social Sciences/ Social gerontology, Health, Aging & Society, 2020, (Lead)

Rachel Weldrick / Social Sciences/ Social gerontology, Health, Aging & Society, 2019, (Co-Lead) 

Jessica Pace/ Social Sciences/ Social gerontology, Gilbrea Centre for Aging studies, 2017, (Facilitator) 

Kelsey Harvey / Social Sciences / PhD Social Gerontology, Health, Aging, & Society, 2020, (Treasurer, To be determined) 

Alison McNeil / Social Sciences / PhD Social Gerontology, Health, Aging, & Society, 2020 (Collaborator)

Kathleen Oliver/ Science/ Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, 2018, (Collaborator) 

Stefania Cerisano/ Science/ Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, 2021, (Collaborator) 

Catherine Dyer, Social Sciences/ Social gerontology, Health, Aging & Society, 2018 (Collaborator)

Rachel Estok, Social Sciences/ Social gerontology, Health, Aging & Society, 2017 (Collaborator)

All Gilbrea Student Group members (Committee members)

These members include masters students / phd/ and post doc students who are currently members of the Gilbrea Student group. Other members might not be named, however, they will partake and assist in the events listed above. 


Upon project approval, committee meetings will follow a monthly schedule with ongoing email communication with the lead and between committee members.


Proposed Project Schedule:


May-June Full committee meeting to: 1) establish milestones, leads and deadlines, 2) identify all known and possible community contacts and networks, 3) establish plan for engaging network contacts - how can they be involved? 4) Start planning event number one


July-September Finish planning event number one.  Hold event number one. Develop a collaborative meeting including older adults in the community to help 1) identify a title 2) receive feedback 3) promote our work 4) identify possible future participants 5) Start planning event number two


October-December:  Finish planning event number two. Hold Event number two. Develop the event including the older adults in Hamilton. Start planning event number three


January-March: Finish planning event number three. Hold Event number three. Develop photo exhibit 1) prepare pictures and posters 2) prepare photo books or pamphlets


Proposed Event Dates

Event #1 : July 25th

Event #2:  November 20th 

Event #3/Photo Exhibit: March 30th

Other considerations:

-       October 1st, National Senior’s Day

-       June 1st, Canada’s Intergenerational day 


Project Team

Stephanie Hatzifilalithis / Social Sciences/ Social gerontology, Health, Aging & Society, 2020, (Co-Lead)

Rachel Weldrick / Social Sciences/ Social gerontology, Health, Aging & Society, 2020, (Co-Lead)

Kelsey Harvey / Social Sciences / PhD Social Gerontology, Health, Aging, & Society, 2020, (Treasurer)

Alison McNeil / Social Sciences / PhD Social Gerontology, Health, Aging, & Society, 2020 (Social Coordinator)

Stefania Cerisano/ Science/ Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, 2021, (Academic Coordinator)

All Gilbrea Student Group members (Committee members)

These members include masters students / phd/ and post doc students who are currently members of the Gilbrea Student group. Other members might not be named, however, they will partake and assist in the events listed above.


Project Contact

Facebook: @Seniors of Canada

Twitter: @SofCanada

Instagram: @Seniorsofcanada



In May 2017, Members of the Gilbrea Student Group at McMaster University successfully received a Student Proposals for Intellectual Community & Engaged Scholarship (SPICES) grant, with the goal to represent ageing as it truly is. A true passion project for our group, we hoped to conquer ageism, mitigate the stereotypes associated with ageing and shine light on the everyday lives of seniors in the Hamilton community. We think we’ve done our goal justice. We began the project with a focus group (August,16th, 2017) where five seniors from the community gave us their input on our initial ideas, name, and goals of the project. We received wonderful and encouraging feedback, and used that to move forward, ensuring that we maintained our goal of representing seniors the way they wanted to be represented.

 We then met with seniors at a time and place of their choosing, and listened to their stories and took their photos (Through-out 2017-2018). We met somewhere that was a part of their everyday lives; at events, somewhere they enjoyed being, where they would want to be captured or doing something they loved. We asked questions about their lives and about what ageing means to them. We then distributed these images on our social media to reach as many people as possible (Through-out 2017-2018). 

Over the course of this year we took part in The Seniors Kickoff that takes place every June to kickoff seniors month, we showcased our work in several guest lectures on campus, we went to the “All Aboard” event for senior immigrants at Liuna Station, we spoke about our project at the Canadian Association of Gerontology, we were invited to be an exhibitor at Hamilton Council on Aging’s Age Friendly Symposium (#Yourenevertooold campaign event) among other knowledge mobilization meetings.

 Our final goal was to showcase our project in a photo-exhibit event in the heart of Hamilton, where the public was welcome to come and see the everyday lives and stories of people in their community. This event happened at Rust City Brewery on April 13th, 2018 and brought together approximately 100 people to discuss aging, narratives, photography and later life. 

Capturing Photos and Stories: During the first year, we met our target number of participants. We gathered and photographed over 11 images and stories of seniors in the Hamilton community. We currently have approximately 4-5 already scheduled and have received a huge response and interest from seniors at various events.  We had to unfortunately commit to later dates with 5 seniors due to scheduling timelines, but their pictures will be taken and their voices will be heard over the course the following months.

Social Media: Currently, our social media accounts have achieved the following results: 95 likes and 103 followers on Facebook; 143 followers on Twitter; 72 followers on Instagram

 Photo Exhibit: April 13th, 2018 (art crawl) we hosted a photo exhibit to display the images and stories that we captured throughout the year. This event surpassed our goal of 50 attendees. Although an exact count is difficult, we are able to estimate that approximately 100 people attended our photo exhibit event over the course of 3 hours. Our “target audience” was achieved, as our attendees included many “young” people, but also many “older” people. Including community stakeholders, faculty and staff and casual drop ins from the night’s art crawl.  The audience represented an intergenerational group of people from the Hamilton area.


The Seniors of Canada: Hamilton project was truly a passion piece for our team and were thus always excited and positive about the potential outcomes. What we didn’t expect was the impact and ability the idea behind our project had on the community, academics, faculty and staff. So much that Dr. James Gillett decided to integrate Seniors of Canada: Hamilton into his undergraduate course on Representations of Health and Illness in the Department of Health, Aging and Society. Wanting to depict iconic places in Hamilton, Dr.Gillett and his class of undergraduates collected images and quotes from 5 iconic places such as McMaster University, the RBG and The Victoria curling club and will continue to do so in the years to come. 

We are currently in discussions with Schlegel Village to incorporate their #Elderwisdom project with ours at various events. They want to show the community how important our senior’s stories are and the wisdom they bring to every conversation.  Hamilton Council on Aging (HCoA) has been enthusiastically supportive of our work and created their own, #Yourenevertooold campaign to showcase exceptional seniors in the community and highlight their achievements through pictures and interviews. We have been in constant contact with them and hope to further collaborate during this next year. 

Lessons Learned

Although the project has been a great success, we have certainly faced challenges along the way.

Camera:  One challenge that has been ongoing throughout the project has surrounded the actual photography of our participants. At this stage, we do not possess a project camera. Stephanie, project lead, has been using her personal camera to take all project photos. This has worked so far, but has certainly created complications for how and when photos have been taken. As this camera belongs to Stephanie, other team members were hesitant to borrow the camera. This process has served as a lesson for us moving forward. We feel that for a photography project to be successful, a project camera would need to be written in as part of the budget. If we were to own a project camera, any team member would be able to access the camera and take photos of new participants. This way, Stephanie would not be required to take all photos and attend all sessions. 

Website: A second challenge faced / lesson learned has been regarding our online presence. Currently, the Seniors of Canada project has three social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These platforms have been critical for us to share photos and quotes with our target audience. We have felt, however, that our project doesn’t have an online “home”. In other words, when people ask about the project, we don’t know where to send them first. We feel, and our participants feel, that it would be beneficial and worthwhile to have a website. This could serve multiple purposes. With a website, we would be able to post all photos that we take, along with longer quotes. Twitter, in particular, limits us in terms of the length of quotes and stories that we share. Hosting our own website would mean that we could post full, unabridged stories and photos.

Capturing Images and Stories: A third challenge that we faced throughout the course of this year was through the actual process of capturing the images and stories of the senior who were participating. The first few images and stories that were captured were done on a one-on-one basis (i.e. one Seniors of Canada team member and one senior). Originally, we felt this would be beneficial and ensure that the senior participant did not feel uncomfortable. We were especially cognizant of this potential dynamic as there is a major age difference between the SofC team members and the senior participants, which could be interpreted by some as a form of power imbalance. However, we found that having only one SofC team member gather the photos and stories of a participant made it very difficult. 

Adivce to future SPICES groups: Communication is key! One of the reasons we managed to pull off all of our events, sessions, meetings, photo-books etc. on top of our already hectic PhD, work, research, life schedules is primarily because there was direct communication with project leads and team members at all times. Assign roles and tasks from the beginning, expectations were set in advance, individualized action items were provided for each team member and although flexible at times, we stuck with our proposed timelines. This helped us tremendously. Our treasurer kept an itemized budget narrative from the beginning to make sure that everything was in place and so we regulated spending from the beginning.  Also, we were very lucky to have academic support ( Department, Faculty, Staff, Centre) to use as an experienced soundboard for our ideas. It also didn't hurt that we all like eachother, so definetly make sure you are working with people you can see being consistent, committed and responsbile but also people you can go The Phoenix with to hash out project problems with over a pint. 


We are evaluating the impact of our project in a number of ways.

Feedback from Seniors: We consider our project to be a success thus far based on the feedback we have received from seniors in the community. Initially, we anticipated having a  hard time recruiting seniors to be part of the project. Many seniors feel uncomfortable with being photographed and having their images shared on the Internet. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find a great level of interest from many different seniors. Once we began recruitment and spreading the word about our project, it snowballed. Many seniors began contacting us and wanting to participate. In fact, once we began meeting with seniors to hear about their lives and take photographs, many of them began telling their friends and families about the project and spreading the word from there. 

Feedback from Community Stakeholders: We also consider the project to be a success thus far because we have had incredibly positive feedback from community stakeholders and partners across the city of Hamilton. Notably, we have had very positive feedback and support from the City of Hamilton (including Lisa Maychak, Project Manager, Age-Friendly City who came to our photo-exhibit). They have endorsed the project and have included it as a successful intergenerational program in their latest Age-Friendly Hamilton report. Additionally, we have received very positive support from the Hamilton Council on Aging (HCoA). They too have endorsed our project, and shared it amongst their network. The HCoA also invited our project to participate in their recent Age-Friendly Symposium at St. Peter’s Hospital.

Community Response to Photo Exhibit: Lastly, we consider the project a success based on the positive impact of our photo exhibit. As mentioned, our photo exhibit at Rust City Brewery on April 13th, 2018 brought together approximately 100 people to discuss aging and later life. To us, this is a very clear success. Many members of our team have worked on other community engagement projects in the past. These types of projects often have difficulty reaching great numbers of people. In this case, the fact that roughly 100 people attended our event speaks to the ability of this project to appeal to a wide audience. This is something that we deem a major success and highlight.

Overall, as we have mentioned in our renweal application, we hoped to bring a more diverse lens to what it means to be a senior in today’s society. From the outset of the project, our senior advisory committee and the seniors later photographed, emphasised it was not their age that was of any significance in how they are represented, but rather the fact that their daily lives are just like anybody else’s. The conversations we had and stories we heard are something we will take with us on our journey in our professional and daily lives. Based on the interest generated this past year we expect to make a greater impact in the year to come by spreading the word through our website and photo-exhibits.  The structure of the project might evolve but we will continue to present everyday images of aging and mitigate stereotypes surrounding seniors in society and the media. We will continue to collect stories and pictures of seniors in Hamilton and will start to expand to other regions across Canada. It’s finally time for everyone to see what we see on a daily basis with our work in the field of ageing; that ageing is a natural part of life and being a senior doesn’t make your life or story any less valuable or interesting. We hope that our stories and pictures encourage others to reach out to people of all ages and backgrounds in order to share stories with one another, learn across generational boundaries, and conquer ageism one picture at a time.

Budget Narrative


Approved Budget

Actual Expense


Printing at McMaster printing services, and media production

  1. Posters (e.g. 11x17 Colour, $1.00 + Black and Whites $.30),evaluations (paper,printing) for each event, ESTIMATE 50 of each per event

  2. Posters of Images (24x30 Color,  $4.62 per foot, + Lamination $2.25 per foot) ESTIMATE 20 for LAST event

  3. Photo books and/or pamphlets (12x18; Colour, $3.50 per foot, + Lamination $2.25 per foot and Graphic artist (provided by McMaster media to design, synthesize and organize photo books/ pamphlets $95/hour, approx. 6 hours ESTIMATE for 100


  1. 6-2-17 invoice no. 34687 70 Seniors of Hamilton Posters $27.71

  2. 8-14-17 no. 3584 100 Seniors of Hamilton Posters $35.30

  3. 10-18-17 no. 36929 100 Seniors of Hamilton Posters $35.31

  4. 3-21-18 no. 39935 100 Event Posters $32.90

  5. PosterJack (display posters) $759.18

  6. Poster Jack (display posters) $193.13

  7. Poster Jack (display posters) $217. 34

  8. Sample Display Poster 1 $81.62

  9. Sample Display Poster 2 with strips for hanging $63.48

  10. Graphic artist for photo book design $500.00

  11. Photo book printing $466.46

  12. Underground laminating $10.17

Running  Total:



Based on Hamilton Spectator and affiliate papers (from $24-$34 per edition), plus online posts (free)


  1. Coffee News (Dundas, Downtown, & Westdale) $226.00

Running total: $226.00

Note Taking Materials

Note pads and pens for attendees to jot down ideas, questions, comments, “Mac Green” recycled paper note pads ($1.00x150)


  1. 8-15-17 no.08.41793 Meeting materials from Campus Store $19.25

  2. Gift baskets for participants (whose photos were taken) $340.00

  3. Home Depot hanging hooks for Display Posters $18.94

  4. Home Depot ( Gorilla Tape $36.65)

  5. Staples: book rings, name tags, thank you cards $28.20

Running total: $443.04


Gilbrea Centre for Aging Studies X3





Special Events Parking Passes, McMaster Parking Services, 15-49 Vehicles @ $3.00 per vehicle, ESTIMATE 49 VEHICLES

$147.00 X3 (based

on 3 events) =$441.00

  1. 11-8-17 no. 0000239012 Parking for event 1 $35.00

Running total: $35.00


Paradise catering (not Eco-Friendly), Coffee/Tea BV01 (1.40 x 60), Juice 03 (1.60 x 60), *Water in jugs with glasses? *, Cookies BG09 (1.00 x 60), Fruit BG17 (1.00 x 60), Rice Crispy Squares BG18 (1.75 x 60)




  1. Event 1 (E65932) 8-16-17 catering $174.05

  2. Catering at Rust City Brewery $450.00

Running Total: $624.05





Running Total $3743.24

[$56.76 remaining to be sent back in journal entry]


The Seniors of Canada Team would like to extend its thanks to the Gilbrea Centre for Studies in Aging and the Department of Health, Aging and Society at McMaster University, for providing us with a place to call ‘home’. Specifically, Kristine Espiritu, Lori Ewing, Nicole Mclean, Amanda Bradford-Janke, Rebecca Timleck-Hessels, Dr. Meridith Griffin, and Dr. Jessica Pace who have been instrumental and nothing but patient, supportive, and encouraging throughout this project. We would also like to thank the Gilbrea Student Group members, past and present, who allowed the Seniors of Canada team to steal time from their meetings and for their endless support. Also, The School of Graduate Studies and McMaster’s SPICES team, Andrea Cole, Correen Smith, and Pete Self, who gave us the opportunity and freedom to ‘run with it’. Dr. James Gillett and his undergraduate students for their input, vision, and collaboration throughout this project. Our graphic designer Sarah Holden, for her timeless creativity, professionalism, and commitment to creating our photo-book including our (beautiful!) logo. Posterjack and Athens Printing; Hamilton and Toronto based printing companies, who printed our lovely book and all of our photos for our photo-exhibit. And to Rust City Brewery, who kindly opened their doors to us so we can showcase our project. Last but not least, we would especially like to thank the subjects of our wonderful photos. We hope we did them justice and we are truly grateful for their time, patience, and the warmth they all showed the Seniors of Canada team.

Project Photos: