It’s Not About Placing Seniors

Scope of the project

Facing a loss of autonomy at any age is challenging. It is our strong belief that if we pay attention to the language used when a senior faces a loss of autonomy it can change the next step in life from being negative to being more positive, when relocating is considered. For some reason the term is to ‘place a senior’ or ‘put my Mom’ in a retirement residence.

We are on a worldwide mission to bring attention to the current language used so that we, as a society, can move away from ‘placing’, ‘to put’ or ‘putting’ a senior in a retirement residence. We believe in adapted housing and bringing the community closer to a senior as they age, that is not our point. Our point is the language used, not the products offered.

“I need to place my Mom.” vs “I need to help my Mom relocate.”
“We placed our Dad in that community” vs “Our Dad moved to that community.”
“We put her on the second floor,” or “She is living on the second floor.”
“My children want to place me.” or “My children are encouraging me to adapt.”

It is with strong conviction that should we change our language we can change the whole approach on aging, as seniors are not an object to be placed on a shelf. This message is easier to deliver to children who have not yet been tarnished by the current language. Grandma’s Place is addressed to a young reader, 6 to 8-year-old, in hopes that they will read the story with an adult which will spread the message more rapidly to open up a conversation that brings on change.

Synopsis of book

While Dad is away on a business trip, 9-year-old Sam stays at Gams’ house. Over the next two weeks, she and Gams share quality time and grow closer together. Gams’ home is both fascinating and scary. The old house is filled with a lifetime’s worth of treasures.

Sam looks up to her Gams, a great cook and an expert gardener, but is saddened as she sees her grandmother struggling to do things that once came so easily. She notices that the big house is getting to be too much for Gams to manage; the stairs are getting harder and harder to climb. When Dad returns, Sam knows, she must find the courage to share the struggles she’s seen with him.

Mad? Furious! is how Sam feels when she hears how her father speaks to his mother about the challenges Gams is facing. He tells her that he needs to “place” her. This sounds all wrong to Sam. Gams is not and never will be an object to be “placed!”

Our words have the power to open up or rapidly shut down conversations. To a senior destabilized by a loss of autonomy, a few simple words can make all the difference. Let’s speak from the heart when it comes to conversations around aging.

Creating the illustrations

38 illustrations were created for this book. Check out the making of one here.


Marie-Claude has taken art courses at the Visual Art Center in Westmount and participated (Fall 2014) in a week-long drawing marathon at the New York Studio School (NYSS). The goal of signing up for the marathon was to help determine what type of illustration would work best for this project. During the last exercise which was to create a collage, after a challenging week of struggling with paper and pencil, Marie-Claude realized that the collage is where she flowed best and could capture a better image that is easy to read.

Giguère has taken the Personal Projects course with Renée Duval and Michael Merrill, and the latter has become her artistic mentor for the illustrations. So using watercolours on Arche paper that is easy to rip (no scissors allowed!) all the illustrations are a collage in an 18 x 22 format.

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