Areas of specialization
- Home care
- Frail older adults
- Residential/long-term care
- Nursing homes
- Family care-giving
- Impact research
- Knowledge translation
- Age-friendly communities
- Social work practice
Joanie Sims-Gould can recall with clarity celebrating her grandparents’ 87th birthday in their family home of 50 years. She knew at the time that if not for the home care and other community services her grandparents had received in recent years, they’d be celebrating this birthday in a nursing home.
As part of a four-generation Canadian family, Sims-Gould has been surrounded by older people for as long as she can remember. And that personal history has driven her professional life as research scientist at the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility (CHHM).
Like Sims-Gould’s grandparents, most older adults prefer to age in their family homes for as long as they can, in spite of health and mobility challenges; Sims-Gould is on a quest to find out how to make that possible.
Canada's changing demographics
The answers are critical given Canada’s demographic shift to an aging population. By 2016, there will be more people over the age of 85 than those under the age of 15—a first in North American history.
Sims-Gould’s work focuses on two complementary subject areas: home care services and the neighborhood built environment. Her investigations into how the two impact older adults’ health and mobility, particularly those in the 85-and-up age bracket, are adding significant weight to a previously slim body of knowledge.
Through the collection of data from 400 older adults and in-depth interviews with more than 100 older adults from various Lower Mainland neighborhoods, Sims-Gould has already learned a great deal about what makes a neighborhood a good place to grow old. Adequate housing, recreational opportunities and amenities that promote physical activity are all key. The data collected includes the perspectives of immigrant older adults, who make up a third of the older Canadian population and are at higher risk of social isolation.
Translating research into action
To ensure the findings reach community and government stakeholders and impact programs and policy, Sims-Gould used her knowledge translation expertise to help create a 19-minute documentary video called “I’d Rather Stay,” which addresses issues of mobility, isolation and independence through the eyes of older adults. The video has been screened by City Councilors and City Managers across BC and screened in national and international film festivals.
Focus on Home Care
More recently, Sims-Gould has been looking at programs that support both the social and mobility needs of older adults receiving home care services. She is working closely with a number of home care agencies to determine best practices. She hopes the results will lead to improvements in home care services, as well as programs and policies that support adequate training for home care workers.
Sims-Gould’s approach to research is unique. She engages study participants in every stage of the process from question design to application. “I do research with them and for them, not on them,” Sims-Gould says. “That way, we ensure the findings are relevant.”
She says the CHHM is critical to the quality of her work. “I have close access to patients and a comprehensive team of experts on everything from cost-effectiveness to hip fractures to biomedical engineering.”
Clearly, what’s good for Sims-Gould is good for us all. Her work in this emerging field is fundamental to planning and developing strategies that will allow our parents and grandparents—indeed, all of us as we age—to live safely at home where we want to be.
“It’s not just about adding years to life,” Sims-Gould says, “it’s about adding life to later years.”
Dr. Sims-Gould's current work
- Shape the Path
- Active Streets, Active People—Junior
- Active Streets, Active People—Senior
- Active Streets, Active People—Foreign Born
- Walk the Talk
- Technology for Injury Prevention in Seniors (TIPS)
Join Dr. Sims-Gould's Research Team
If you are interested in joining any of Dr. Sims-Gould's research teams, please email her with your areas of interest and your current curriculum vitae.