Muslim seniors guide researcher’s work aimed at improving health, fighting Islamophobia

For Jordana Salma, academic research should be a two-way street: an ongoing cycle of asking questions, identifying concerns and then working with communities to address them.

The assistant professor in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Nursing relies on Alberta’s Muslim community to guide her studies of aging and health for seniors. In return, she promises to take concrete action based on what she learns to make life better for community members.

“I always imagine it as a balance between addressing community needs and at the same time advancing science,” said Salma, who is also a member of the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute. “They have to go hand in hand because of the real inequities that we see.”

“It’s not enough to explore what the issues are — we have to address them, and right away.”

Salma has set up the Muslim Seniors Research Committee, a group of 12 seniors in Edmonton who advise her on three research projects supported by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), one about digital literacy within Arabic-speaking communities and two on the impact of social isolation on seniors, particularly during COVID-19.

The group meets four times a year and is actively recruiting new members across Alberta. The goal is to ensure Salma’s research on healthy aging is community-driven and culturally sensitive.

Committee member Mahenaz Layton, 74, moved to Edmonton from England more than 40 years ago and now runs a seniors’ support group at Edmonton’s Rahma Mosque

“We want to be contributing members of Edmonton,” said Layton, noting that Muslims have come here from Asia, Africa, Europe and elsewhere.

“The fabric of the community is enriched when we bring our different cultures to it.”

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