In September 2008, CIHR sponsored a café scientifique to debate successful aging outside of academia and into the public realm. This event propelled the exchange of ideas, increased the public’s exposure to current debates in gerontological research and emphasized the need to frame aging positively.
Attended by over 70 seniors from the community, the response received focused on the need to engage developing strategies and mechanisms to support aging at home initiatives to maintain independence.
In October 2011, 13 academics and researchers across Ontario met to determine knowledge gaps and research needs to conceptualize graceful aging.
Academics and researchers prioritized the following:
- Gain a greater understanding of the optimal time to intervene and apply appropriate strategies (when, how to adapt, lifespan, critical windows, technology, exercise)
- Provide and use auditory technologies for environmental support to stay focused
- Use internal strategies to improve cognitive performance
- Design environments to delay the onset of disability
- Understand the relationship between cognitive, physical and emotional function through basic research
- Integrate and transform formal and informal healthcare systems and social care
- Adapt and implement other successful health care models
- Provide comprehensive prevention throughout the life course
While raising the profile of aging research, researchers and academics recognized an imminent need for specialized aging education.
In March 2011, a Blue Sky Curriculum Development Day was held with academics and key stakeholders to determine the development of content and learning objectives for a certificate in aging.
The following content and learning objectives were proposed:
- Offer foundational and detailed knowledge of aging (through an interdisciplinary and cultural view with a focus on vulnerable populations)
- Provide practicum experience (for students to develop interpersonal skills, empathy, and compassion)
- Generate research experience to cultivate problem solving skills
- Develop a course to prepare students with skills to challenge the status quo (leadership)
From September 2012 to March 2013, a needs assessment was conducted to determine if a certificate in Aging at York University was needed. 105 full-time students in the Faculty of Health responded to survey questions and 8 stakeholders participated in a semi-structured interview. 80% of students responded with a strong need for a certificate in aging. 60% of those students responded that they would have undertaken a certificate had it been available during their time at York University or knew of someone who would be interested in a certificate in aging.
Academic and key stakeholders agreed that certificate was needed. The certificate would provide a focus on a specific skill set with an aging knowledge base to provide leadership and management on aging related initiatives such as individuals aging at home and provision of respite and education to caregivers with a focus on prevention and proactive health care.
The Graceful Aging Alliance Steering Committee (now YU-CARE) proposed to implement a strategic plan to advance the profile of aging research and curriculum development and delivery within the Faculty of Health by developing and implementing a Faculty Based Research Centre, that is today’s York University Centre for Aging Research and Education (YU-CARE).