Julie Chateauvert

University professor, activist and artist

50 years

Amongst all of the questions that resonate with you about aging and growing old, which one seems the most essential for you that you would like to share ?

How can we transform the present-day model of homes for the elderly with declining autonomy into a network of residences integrated into our communities? How can we prevent this separation that many go through when the time comes to leave their homes for these impersonal residences? And… how can we escape liberalism…?

Share an image you find inspiring about aging

One day, during a film festival, I saw a film which interviewed aging people about their current experience. At the time, I was doing research for a video project that I wanted to do on this topic (a project that I ended up abandoning, due to a lack of affinity with my project partner and failing to find an interesting angle). The director of the film, to deal with the aging of his own parents, chose to present an image of old people who age well. A way to reassure himself and to counter the disastrous projective image that he saw everywhere, he claimed. There I met Thérèse Clerc, who is now deceased, and her project of building a feminist non-mixed residence (The Baba Yaga House) and an education center for elderly people’s knowledge. I would then meet Thérèse in person. But the image that struck me the most, was the moment I spent next to this old lady with a deeply furrowed face, a former comedian, with a voice hoarse from years of smoking, who was still a diction teacher (these were her own words), taking drags on a cigarillo of dark tobacco from her cigarette holder. When asked how she viewed the approach of death, she took a drag on her cigarillo. Then she exhaled and answered: If I had to choose, I’d choose explosion. For me, this scene was striking and extremely rewarding in terms of ideas.

From your own experiences, tell us about a significant moment or event in your personal or professional life that shaped your perspective around aging. My personal reflection is certainly no different than those of many others. I reflect upon aging while watching my parents and people close to me (and not so close to me) age, for better or worse, fulfilled or suffering and everything in between, while I know of more and more people who have died and people who see their parents die. While noticing my own transformations of course. The stories behind every person are always unique, many are touching, distressing even. But the truth is that my personal reflection seems much less interesting and relevant than the reflection that concerns the organisation of our society. I am currently involved in two projects (other than this one) which aim to invent (or simply allow to exist) ways to build and develop spaces for aging: a shared co-residence bringing together different generations and cultures, and a social center for solidarity on its way to create a housing and health care cooperative. The latter in particular englobes general aspects of aging, addressing democracy in the radical sense of the term. I can’t say that my vision of aging has been transformed by a significant moment or event. However, I can say that the issue of aging is paramount in the context of COVID-19 and the crisis in long-term care centres (CHSLD). The fact that I am involved in three projects relating to aging is a surprising coincidence. In their own ways, each addresses the questions of power, autonomy and community. And for the most part, it’s under this angle that the issue of aging raises my concern.

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