Researchers counter healthy aging issues, isolation in cities with $6.8 million funding

Dawn Mackey
Dawn Mackey
Researchers from SFU and UBC are working to counter -epidemic levels- of physical inactivity, loneliness and social isolation among older people in our cities. New funding totaling $6.8 million will help drive their efforts to promote and improve healthy aging.

SFU associate professor Dawn Mackey is co-leading the team with UBC professors Heather McKay, Joanie Sims Gould and Farinaz Havael, and researchers from SFU-s Aging and Population Health Lab and UBC-s Active Aging Research Team. The funding includes $3 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Healthy Cities Implementation Science (HCIS) team grants over the next six years, $2.6 million from the Public Health Agency of Canada, and $1.2 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia.

The team’s work will focus on -implementation science- to address health issues that affect older adults, and train and mentor new scientists in this field.

Implementation science is the scientific study of methods to promote the uptake of evidence-based interventions into routine practice, leading to the improved quality and effectiveness of health services and care.

-Loneliness and social isolation are associated with cognitive decline, more severe mental health symptoms, and even earlier death,- says Mackey, an associate professor in SFU-s biomedical physiology and kinesiology (BPK) department, and a scholar with Michael Smith Health Research British Columbia. Her team at SFU conducts research to promote mobility of older adults and address the cause, prevention and management of age-related mobility limitations.

-The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this vicious spiral. Being active, mobile and connected supports older adults to live healthier lives and interact more fully with their communities.-

The SFU team, which focuses on sex and gender equality in health promotion, will study how to adapt an effective health-promoting program called Choose to Move to serve more diverse populations of older adults. They-ll work with community-based seniors- organizations and, on a more individual level, older men-a population group that Mackey says has not been reached or engaged to a great extent thus far-to adapt and implement Choose to Move to meet the needs and preferences of older men.

-What’s important in this work is that we co-design health-promoting programs that uniquely match the needs and preferences of diverse populations of older adults and the organizations that serve them, to ultimately help ensure active and socially-engaged seniors,- says Mackey.

-We want to help enable community-based seniors’ services organizations to deliver health-promoting programs that are currently outside their capacity, and train the next generation of implementation science researchers.-