Aging boomers send city planners to the drawing board – with the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility!
According to Statistics Canada, people over the age of 65 will make up 23% of BC’s population by 2013. Our aging population has city and provincial planners, seniors’ organizations, and seniors themselves teaming up with health researchers to understand how physical and social environments impact older adult mobility, social connectedness, independence, and ultimately, their health.
Dr. Heather McKay, director of the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility at Vancouver Coastal Health and UBC Faculty of Medicine, and the Centre’s researchers are internationally recognized experts in the area of mobility, physical activity, and health research – and they are addressing the needs of this booming aging demographic. One of their research groups, the Walk the Talk Team, was awarded a six year, $1.5 million team grant from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research to examine factors in the built environment that facilitate or inhibit the health of aging citizens. The team aims to prolong active and independent living for aging Canadians, which they see as an essential strategy to enhance quality of life, promote physical health, and reduce dependency on the health care system.
“The typical pedestrian cross light begins to flash ‘thehand’ after just seven seconds,” says Dr. McKay. “If you are an older adult – with a cane, a shopping bag, and a vision impediment – the intersection becomes the enemy as you know you may not get across in time. These seemingly simple things greatly impact the safety and confidence of older adults, and ultimately influence their willingness to get out in and interact with their community.” Walk the Talk is partnering with the City of Vancouver, City of Surrey, BC Housing, and numerous community groups, including the South Vancouver Neighbourhood House and the West End Seniors’ Network, to ensure that the community can both inform the research projects, and be in a position to readily move findings into action.
“It is all about team work,” says Dr. Joanie Sims-Gould, a lead researcher on the project. “To succeed we must engage diverse groups across multiple sectors and address this complex problem together – and most importantly, we need to see the challenges of moving about one’s neighbourhood through the eyes of an olderadult.”