Sponsored by CIHR, we held a café scientifique in September 2008 in order to bring the debate about aging “successfully” outside of academia into the public realm, thereby stimulating the exchange of ideas, as well as to increase the public’s exposure to current debates in gerontological research and the need to frame aging positively. This event was attended by over 70 older adults from our community, The feedback we received was that Canada needs to work at developing strategies/mechanisms to support aging at home initiatives so that independence can be maintained.

In October 2011, we held a working group session attended by 13 invited academics/researchers across Ontario, in order to determine knowledge gaps and research needs in the realm of aging gracefully. Our participants prioritized the following as research gaps/needs: We need to

  • better understand the optimal time to intervene and apply the appropriate strategies (When, How to adapt, Lifespan, Critical windows, Technology, Exercise)
    • better use auditory technologies for environmental support to stay focused
    • use internal strategies to improve cognitive performance
    • better design environments to delay the onset of disability
  • better understand the relationship between cognitive, physical and emotional function through basic research
  • integrate and transform the formal health, informal health and social support systems
  • adapt and implement other health care models that are more successful
  • provide comprehensive prevention throughout the life course

Education related activities:

In March 2011, we held a blue sky curriculum development day with academics as well as our key stakeholders to determine what content and learning objectives should be developed if we wanted to create a program in aging. Some main suggestions were that in addition to instantiating foundational and detailed knowledge on aging (interdisciplinary, across cultures, in vulnerable populations), we should try to provide a practicum experience so that our students could develop interpersonal, empathy, and compassion, as well as research experience that could promote problem solving skills, and develop a course that would prepare our students with skills to challenge the status quo (leadership).

In the fall/winter of 2012/2013 an environmental scan and needs assessment were conducted to determine if there is a demand for a certificate/program in aging at York. 105 full-time students in the Faculty of Health responded to our survey questions and 8 stakeholders participated in a semi-structured interview. 80% of the students said that we needed a certificate/program in aging and of those students 60% said they would have taken such a certificate or knew of someone who would have taken such a certificate/program in aging. The stakeholders agreed that a program/certificate is needed, but they also emphasized the need for a shift towards focusing on developing skills and knowledge in students for them to facilitate individuals aging at home, provide respite and education to caregivers, and 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, i.e., the York University Centre for Aging Research and Education (YU-CARE).