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School of Nursing heads up award-winning research team

Drs. Sandra MacDonald and Wendy Young


By Marcia Porter

The Age-Friendly Communities Research Team (AFCRT), headed up by Dr. Wendy Young from Memorial's School of Nursing has been awarded the Primary Care Researcher Award for 2012 for its work assessing age-friendliness in the City of St. John's.

Dr. Young, who is also the Canada Research Chair in Healthy Aging at Memorial, received the award on behalf of the research team during the Prifor 2012 conference, Bridging the Gap from Knowledge to Practice.

Dr. Young's colleague in the School of Nursing, Dr. Sandra MacDonald, is also a member of the research team, and a recent recipient of the primary research award.

The Age-Friendly Communities Research Team includes Memorial faculty members Vareesh Gadag, Catherine Donovan, Jared Clarke (Community Health and Humanities) and Alvin Simms (Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts), along with Nigel Waters from George Mason University in Washington, D.C.
The award is presented every year by the Faculty of Medicine's Primary Healthcare Research Unit for quality primary care research conducted in the province.

This year's award-winning team collaborated with the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Seniors to develop and administer a survey that looked at age-friendly characteristics in St. John's.

Allan Miller, who chairs the advisory committee, nominated them for the research award.

A key thrust of primary care research is the focus on community engagement.
"From a research point of view, we were really interested in finding out if St. John's is very age-friendly," said Dr. Young, who founded the team in 2009 with seed funding from the provincial Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Applied Health Research, Healthy Aging Research program.

"It was a win-win situation. The advisory committee was really interested in the work we were doing, and we really wanted to collect data on age friendliness."
About 130 St. John's residents – half of them aged 60 and over, the other half under age 60 – were surveyed about a range of issues including what people liked best about living in St. John's to what they thought was the most critical issue they faced.

People of all ages responded that safe and affordable housing is their number one issue; a key finding that has led the mayor's committee to recommend that a member of the city's housing committee join their group.

The survey also found that clear sidewalks are not only an issue for seniors; they are also a concern for parents and caregivers who use strollers, and for others who use the sidewalks frequently.

Findings from the survey have gone to the Mayor's Advisory Council, which in turn has made recommendations to city council on developing age-friendly policies for the city. Dr. Young expects more tangible outcomes will follow from the work.

An age-friendly city is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an inclusive and accessible urban environment that promotes active aging. WHO launched a global age-friendly cities program in 2006 that focuses on helping cities deal with rapidly-aging populations and increasing urbanization.