Laura Hurd Clarke


Research Classification

Social Aspects of Aging
Social Determinants of Health
Loss of Independence
Identity Building
Participatory research
Quality of Life and Aging
Aging Process

Research Interests

sociology of aging
social gerontology
body image
social exclusion
Assistive technology
Physical Activity
qualitative methods
LGBTQ older adults
media representation
gender identity

Relevant Degree Programs


Research Methodology

Discourse analysis


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Master's students
Doctoral students
Any time / year round

I supervise students with backgrounds in sociology or socio-cultural studies. Students under my supervision typically conduct research in the areas of aging, health, body image, disability, and/or physical activity.

I support public scholarship, e.g. through the Public Scholars Initiative, and am available to supervise students and Postdocs interested in collaborating with external partners as part of their research.
I support experiential learning experiences, such as internships and work placements, for my graduate students and Postdocs.

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Mar 2019)
"It's not that I can't walk" : older adults' experiences of using canes and walkers (2017)

Despite the high prevalence of walking difficulties and widespread use of walking aids in later life, to date, there has been minimal scholarly interest in the study of canes and walkers. Building on the existing literatures in rehabilitation, social gerontology, and geographies of disability, the present study aimed to gain a fuller understanding of older men’s and women’s perceptions and embodied experiences of having walking difficulties and using a cane or a walker. The study was informed by an interpretive approach grounded in feminist disability theory, and was guided by the following research questions:1. How do older men and women perceive and experience having walking restrictions in later life? 2. How do older men and women perceive and experience the use of a cane or a walker in their everyday lives? 3. How does the social and environmental context of mobility shape individuals’ use of canes and walkers in later life? Using a qualitative descriptive method, I conducted a combination of sit-down and walk-along interviews with six male and 18 female cane and walker users aged 67 to 98. The men and women each took part in two sit-down interviews, during which I asked them to discuss what it was like to have walking limitations and to regularly use a walking aid. In addition, participants completed one walk-along interview, during which I accompanied them on an outing to a location of their choosing. In the findings, I discuss the men’s and women’s embodied experiences of having walking limitations and utilizing canes and walkers in the context of the ableist, ageist, and gendered organization of everyday life. In particular, the findings examine the social and spatial practices that organize older adults’ use of their canes and walkers; the cultural meanings attributed to canes and walkers in later life; how these meanings are shaped by the embodied experience of aging and impairment; and how in turn, the use of walking aids may inform older adults’ views of their bodies and identities.

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Older women and physical activity : perceptions of changing body function, health, and appearance (2017)

Women’s body image may be influenced by the changes to body functioning, health, and appearance they face as they age. Body image has been associated with physical activity engagement, life satisfaction, and eating behaviours. To advance understanding of older women’s body image, three studies were conducted using interviews with physically active women aged 65 to 94, adopting interpretive and narrative constructionist approaches. Study one explored how women perceived, experienced, and coped with their aging bodies, and examined their perceptions of the utility of self-compassion for the management of aging body-related changes. Participants were accepting yet critical of the physical changes accompanying aging. They engaged in activity and healthy eating to maintain their body’s functioning and health, and used exercise, diet, and aesthetic strategies to maintain their appearances. Self-compassion for the aging body was viewed as idealistic and contextual. Study two explored the emotions in women’s aging body and physical activity stories. The cultural narrative of decline associating later life with deteriorating health and dependence influenced the women’s experiences in the physical domain. The participants were anxious about body decline. Body-related shame and guilt permeated their stories; they were frustrated with body changes and with their inabilities to engage in certain activities. The women concurrently told stories of body and physical activity-related pride to reassure themselves and others that they were taking responsibility for their health. Study three explored the stories of aging recounted by a 75-year-old woman, which were permeated by narratives of acceptance and resistance. Annabelle accepted yet attempted to slow body decline while facing breast cancer, widowhood, retirement, and ageism. These experiences elicited body shame, sadness, self-pity, anger, anxiety, and pride, and were coped with using cognitive reframing, community engagement, appearance management strategies, and end of life preparations. Overall, these dissertation findings contribute to our understanding of the multidimensionality of body image by drawing attention to the cognitions, emotions, and behaviours involved in how older women perceive and cope with changes to body functioning, health, and appearance. The findings also highlight the role of cultural age and body norms in shaping later life experiences in the physical domain.

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Autors, auidiences, and advocates& but athletes first: Blogging and the paralymic movmenent (2014)

No abstract available.



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