Elders in the Making


An Elder is Someone Who Commits to Becoming one

We’d like to invite you to join us at the South Shuswap Health Services Society (SSHSS) for something rather important and wonderful. Consider what you’re about to read as just a quick introduction and invitation to learn more and consider joining us….

Soon we will focus on the development of a special program we believe will have a significant and positive effect on all of us in the Shuswap, young and older. And we know we can not do it without you.

This program is called ELDERS IN THE MAKING. It is all about understanding the nature of ELDERHOOD (as opposed to “seniorhood”) and then working to fulfill its latent promises to youth and our entire community.

With participation from you, we intend to challenge ourselves regarding how we think about the stages of our lives, especially youth, aging, and retirement. We also want to explore and improve the relationship between youth and seniors.

We know that everyone who survives their youth becomes seniors; we are also aware, especially because of the influence of our indigenous neighbours, that not every senior becomes an elder, largely because so many of our social norms, government bodies, and corporate institutions do not appear to support elderhood as an essential social and cultural value.

Rather, it is deemed a period of our lives that tends to become mainly burdensome on society.

We want to address the inherent incorrectness of that point of view, and we want you to join us.

If you’d like, first, to reflect on some of these thoughts, take a few moments to read up on how interesting and new (yes new!) the concept of Elderhood really is in Canada outside of our indigenous communities. It may surprise you. Follow the argument presented here by gerontologist Jennifer Inker in a recent presentation as part of the Williamsburg Place Lecture Series: https://farleycenter.com/what-is-elderhood.

Here’s a quote from Ms. Inker that might draw your interest:

“Elderhood need not be seen as a weaker, wrinklier version of adulthood, where if you can’t be young, at least try to look and act young. Instead, elderhood should be appreciated as its own developmental stage of personal growth.”

Our goal is to bring youth, seniors, and indigenous people together to share, discuss, explore, discover, and realize the power of being or becoming a contributing Elder in the Shuswap.

If this already interests you and you know you’d like to be part of the initial discussions, send us a note simply by clicking here: https://sshss.ca/contact-us/. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

But now, here’s some important context for you that explains what has prompted us to explore Elderhood in the Shuswap. Following that is an outline of our plan. We welcome and want your responses.


SSHSS is responding to a program about elderhood because of local research undertaken a few years ago by one of its members.

In 2015, the Shuswap Settlement Services Society of Salmon Arm contracted retired educator Dr. Jerre Paquette to undertake a research project entitled “Raising Community Awareness of Exploitation and Abuse of Seniors in the Shuswap.”

Sadly, the research exposed a disturbing measure of elder abuse from a diverse environment of people, institutions, and government programs right here in our Shuswap community.

The most unsettling finding was the reluctance of many elders, our own neighbours!, to speak about the abuse they were suffering, the loneliness and the fear they were experiencing. All this was compounded by the despair they felt at no longer feeling valued or wanted in their senior years.

That finding was upsetting. But not all the findings were, especially at the end of the program. At that point, a large number of seniors joined a community forum to reflect on the study’s findings. They accepted the findings, but they wanted to express what they felt were important next steps if the lives of our seniors were to improve.

Of the 11 steps they recommended, their first three expressed the need and desire among seniors for sharing, educating, and contributing to the larger community:

  1. Get together more often for laughter and discussion, focus on solutions, stop playing the blame game
  2. Talk to the community, educate, inform, share seniors’ achievements
  3. Establish a seniors’ broadcast on CKVS with senior broadcasters

In response to these recommendations and the complex of findings the study revealed, Dr. Paquette elected to continue with exploring matters concerning the senior years in a more inclusive and participatory way than the original research focus on abuse enabled.

The response is ELDERS IN THE MAKING, a title and concept prompted by serendipitous viewing of a cultural/historical documentary film entitled Elder in the Making about a Blackfoot Nation community in Alberta.

That documentary video changed Dr. Paquette’s understanding of how best to serve the needs and potential of not only those senior citizens in need of support, but all those who would one day become seniors—everyone who survives youth and middle age.

As Chris Hsuing, the film’s director, came to realize “…the joy and the hope for the future..can be found in Elders reviving their culture…”.

Elders reviving their culture! That line continues to echo and provides the impetus to explore the promises of Elderhood.

The ELDERS IN THE MAKING program has been in the conceptual stage for a while, but the time has arrived to turn it all into action.

Joining us now means you can be a part of the process at any level that seems right for you, and there will be a lot of different things for you to contribute if you’re open to committing.

Now that you have some of the context for the program, all that’s left for now is our outline of ideas about how we could proceed together. Have a look at it, let your own ideas burst forth, then consider sharing them with us. Remember: What follows is just an initial outline to get us talking and planning in more detail.


STAGE 1- Introductory Work


  • Initial research & Team formation
  • Celebration and Acknowledgement of Canadian Elder Accomplishments Across the Shuswap
    • Identifying local seniors, collecting their stories, sharing them, publishing them

STAGE 2 – Extending the Work


  • INVITING AND INVOLVING a broader range of individuals, groups, and organizations, including Indigenous, Youth, Elder, Educational, Church, and Government groups.
  • Second stage of research focusing on model programs and resources
  • INITIATING curricular content and design and scope of Educational Programs in Schools, Universities, and Community Centres.

STAGE 3 – Entrenching the Results



  • To provide a centralized location and resource for Legacy and Continuing Development of the Roles of Elders in the Shuswap
  • To provide a resource and opportunities for elders, youth, and Indigenous people to collaborate on continuing education, and
  • To prevent future elder abuse practices at all levels of community life

Send us a note indicating your interest:  https://sshss.ca/contact-us/


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