It’s been over 10 years since Les Cake started researching the need for and what it would take to establish a centre for aging research in Newfoundland and Labrador.
When he started the province was the only one in the country without one.
In 2011 one of the studies that Cake, then a professor in the psychology department at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University, worked on was presented to the university’s administration. It suggested that a centre be located at Grenfell.
On Tuesday morning, “seven years later,” Cake, now an honorary research professor at Grenfell, was at the university as the centre talked about in that study was announced.
The Aging Research Centre will be based at Grenfell with an auxiliary site in St. John’s. Veronica Hutchings, an assistant professor in counselling, is the director of the centre and Karen Doody, adjunct professor in the school of science and environment, is the co-ordinator.
Researchers at the centre will look at all aspects of aging and information gathered will be able to be used to inform decision-making and service provision by the province and other health-related organizations.
Lisa Dempster, the minister of Children, Seniors and Social Development, was at the event at the Grenfell Art Gallery to announce a $200,000 investment in the centre from the province. Memorial University is contributing approximately $300,000 to the centre.
Cake wasn’t sure how he felt about the time it took for the centre to be established.
“I thought it was obvious. We’re one of the oldest provinces, we don’t have a centre, every other province has a centre.”
To Cake, who will sit on the centre’s management committee, it was a “no brainer.” The delay he said was perhaps because of money.
But Cake’s attitude is “better late than never,” and he said the need is just as strong, if not stronger, today.
“What’s changed over the years is there’s an even higher proportion of people over the age of 65, older adults than there was back in 2011.”
Census data from 2016 shows there are 101,025 people in the province over the age of 65. That age group accounts for nearly 20 per cent of the province’s total population.
Projections that Cake shared with The Western Star in 2011 estimated that by 2031 Newfoundland and Labrador would have the oldest population in the country.
“Oh, there’s no doubt about it. If you look at the demographics, the figures. And as the minister said today that’s true everywhere, but it’s particularly true here. We’re aging at a faster rate.”
Cake said there’s more attention put on valuing seniors today, and on what they know and utilizing them as a resource.
“Rather than saying they’re going to be a burden, you look at the positives.”
Aging Research Centre
Potential areas of research:
Aging in place – staying in your own home
Older adults driving
Aging in aboriginal populations
Researchers, students and community members interested in research on aging can apply to become members of the Aging Research Centre
Researchers will be able to access the pool of community members to be able contact members to participate in research projects and studies
The centre will have an advisory council
The province’s $200,000 investment will be used to provide research grants for faculty members and students