The Age-Friendly Communities Research Team (AFCRT), headed up by a faculty member from Memorial University’s School of Nursing, has been awarded the Primary Care Researcher Award for 2012.
Dr. Wendy Young, who is also 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 previous recipient of the primary research award.
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.
A key thrust of primary care research is the focus on community engagement.
Dr. Young and Memorial colleagues Drs. MacDonald (Nursing), 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, received the award for their work on age-friendliness in St. John’s.
It’s the second time in recent years that Memorial’s School of Nursing has shared in the recognition.
Back in 2008 the Community Health Assessment Team (CHAT) from the School of Nursing, headed up by Dr. MacDonald, received the Primary Care Research Award for its work conducting regional community assessments studies across the island and in Labrador.
This year’s award-winning team was lauded for its work on a survey assessing the age-friendly characteristics of St. John’s. The AFCRT collaborated with the Mayors Advisory Committee on Seniors to develop and administer the survey.
The AFCRT was nominated for the research award by Allan Miller, who chairs the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Seniors.
What impressed him and other members of the committee was the value of the information collected, the links forged between researchers and municipal leaders and the potential for future collaboration.
“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 Age-Friendly Research 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. We systematically collected and analyzed data that was of use to our committee, and that we used to test our hypotheses.
The hypotheses related to age that they wanted to test: Design for the young, and you exclude the old; design for the old and you include the young. It’s the assertion of Bernard Isaacs, a former professor of geriatric medicine at Birmingham University who carried out ground-breaking work in the field of geriatric medicine.
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 (some people answered they liked the weather best), to what they thought was the most critical issue they faced.
People of all ages responded that safe and affordable housing is the number one issue; a key finding that led the mayor’s advisory committee to recommend that a member of the city’s housing committee sit on 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.
The Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Senior’s connected with Dr. Young and her team quite by chance.
Their meeting stems from an article Dr. Young read in The Scope while she and her husband were out for breakfast. The article mentioned that St. John's City Councillor Tom Hann’s had an interest in work around age-friendly cities.
With her background and interest in healthy aging, Dr. Young contacted Councillor Hann, and the two arranged to meet. That led to an invitation for her to attend a meeting of the advisory committee on seniors.
An age-friendly city is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an inclusive and accessible urban environment that promotes active aging.
The World Health Organization (WHO) launched a global age-friendly cities program in 2006 that focuses on helping cities deal with rapidly-aging populations and increasing urbanization.