Research Projects

Medical Assistance in Dying: Ethical and Policy issues in Southern Rural Alberta (SSHRC Insight Development Grant)

In 2016, the Canadian government legalized Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD). However, there has been little attention paid to how MAiD-related issues present in rural areas. Some scholars have expressed concern that MAiD may present distinct ethical issues in rural settings These can include insufficient access to palliative care, less privacy or anonymity, potential stigma associated with requesting, providing, or receiving MAiD, and/or overlap between personal and professional relationships. Data from Alberta Health Services South Zone (2019) indicates that there are differences in knowledge and attitudes about MAiD between urban and rural communities, but these differences have not been explored.

In this project, we will explore ethical and policy issues related to MAiD in rural Southern Alberta. Our team is comprised of Julia Brassolotto (P.I.), Sally Chivers (Trent University), Duff Waring (York University), and Monique Sedgwick (University of Lethbridge).Our main objectives are: 1) to better understand the MAiD policy and legal landscape in Alberta, 2) to gain insight into the representations of MAiD in rural communities and in the media their residents consume, and 3) to hear from rural residents and care providers about their lived experiences of related ethical issues. This work will enable us to situate debates about MAiD in rural-specific contexts.

Imagining Age-Friendly Communities within Communities: International Promising Practices (SSHRC Partnership Grant – P.I. Tamara Daly)

Julia Brassolotto is a co-investigator and a theme lead on this 7-year international study on age-friendly communities.

“This project is built around a central question: How can age-friendliness support conditions in which all senior citizens not only maintain healthy active lives, but can participate and create meaning in later life? It will transform fears about an aging population into conversations and practices that address both the complexities and possibilities inherent in a world that welcomes the meaning that old age brings to life. The team will pay special attention to gender as it looks at how inequalities and differences between and among women, men and non-binary people play out in seniors’ lives and policy assumptions. Furthermore, the researchers will investigate what makes age-friendly communities promising places with “promising practices” for women, men and non-binary people; those living in poverty; LGBTIQ2S, ethno-racial, indigenous, disability and Dementia communities; families who require specific supports and services; and those who support seniors, especially migrants and domestic careers, who are aging on the job. The partnership is committed to advancing the World Health Organization’s call for new research and understanding about age-friendly cities. “

View the project website here:

Imagining Age-Friendly “communities within communities”

In the media:

Two York University researchers earn major SSHRC Partnership Grants


Sexual Expression in Continuing Care Homes

Sexual expression can be challenging to navigate in residential care settings such as Designated Supportive Living or Long-Term Care homes. Alberta does not currently have any formal guidelines or standards designed to support individuals living in residential care facilities with healthy sexual expression or to support their family members or care workers in managing this aspect of their care. This can translate into a lack of supports for families/spouses in navigating these issues, a lack of supports for care workers in managing healthy and unhealthy sexual expression, insufficient resources to support safe sexual practices, and an inadequate understanding of the needs of LGBTQ+ residents.

This research project is designed to explore current policies and practices around sexual expression in Alberta’s residential care facilities. In this project, co-Principal Investigators Julia Brassolotto and Lisa Howard will identify related challenges and promising practices. With the help of participants and partners, this work will inform the development of tools and resources to support safe, healthy, and dignified sexual expression.

Exploring Intersections in Long-Term Care (LTC) in Rural Alberta

In this project, Julia Brassolotto (Principal Investigator) and co-investigators Shannon Spenceley and Sienna Caspar explore the living and working conditions for LTC in rural Alberta. This AI-funded research project looks at multiple intersections in rural Alberta’s LTC sector: intersections of formal and informal labour, public and private lives, home and health care facilities, expectations and lived experiences, and multiple intersections of identities.

This study is designed to explore 1) the organization of care work in rural Alberta’s long-term care facilities (who does what? With what resources? With what implications?) and 2) the role(s) that these facilities play in their communities. The project involves a qualitative case study of facilities providing LTC in rural Alberta. Data is collected in the form of interviews, observations, and document analysis.