CHHM's seniors' mobility research comes to life in new documentary

CHHM's seniors' mobility research comes to life in new documentary

"What makes a neighbourhood a good place to grow old?”

That’s the question underscoring I’d Rather Stay, a new documentary by MSFHR-funded knowledge broker Callista Haggis, which examines the urban environment’s impact on older adults living in Greater Vancouver.

The film is an intimate look at the lives of five older adults as they reflect on the features of their homes and neighbourhoods that contribute to physical and emotional well-being.

For many older individuals, living in car-dependent or otherwise restrictive neighbourhoods can present significant challenges to health and mobility. As physical abilities decline, it can become difficult to sustain activity and social connectedness in later life.

I’d Rather Stay illustrates themes identified by the Active Streets, Active People (ASAP) study, a research program of the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility. ASAP is evaluating the impact of street-level changes in Vancouver’s West End – specifically the development of the Comox-Helmcken greenway – on older adults’ mobility and social interactions.

As the project’s knowledge broker, Haggis sought to move research evidence beyond the academic realm and create tools that allow the findings to be seen, heard, and applied in practice.

Drawing from qualitative interviews with 26 study participants, as well as focus groups with Centre for Hip Health and Mobility researchers (in which she facilitated the discussion), Haggis identified certain major themes and issues affecting the mobility of older adults throughout Greater Vancouver. This analysis formed the basis for a script outline from which the documentary evolved.

Acting as producer, director, and story editor, Haggis collaborated with cinematographer Farzine MacRae to create the 19-minute documentary.

The resulting film has been well-received in initial community screenings, and Haggis has submitted the film to festivals in an attempt to reach an even broader audience.

Having used video as a knowledge-sharing tool in previous studies, Haggis embraces visual media’s potential to bring research evidence to a wider audience. She’s quick to point out, though, that creative projects may have greater impact if they are informed by community-based research.

“We’re not just making a video – this is a collaborative development of themes and content from the research,” she says. “The research is informing our approach at every step of the project.”

Haggis’ long-term plans for I’d Rather Stay include the creation of a website and online toolkit with resources to support discussion of the film’s themes in communities grappling with issues of older adults’ mobility. There are also plans to present the film at community screenings for seniors’ groups around the Lower Mainland and eventually across the country.