New Brunswick

Well-being of seniors subject of new STU research chair

A new research chair at St. Thomas University will be trying to make life better for seniors, who make up a growing part of the New Brunswick population.

Research will be a resource for province trying to serve growing senior population

Lisa Harris, minister of seniors and long-term care, says 20 per cent of New Brunswick's population is made up of seniors, but by 2030 that will have risen to 30 per cent. (Jacqueline Cormier)

A new research chair at St. Thomas University will be trying to make life better for seniors, who make up a growing part of the New Brunswick population.

The Health Research Chair in Community Health and Aging will do research aimed at keeping seniors in their own homes longer, and relieving the effects of social isolation.

"It is absolutely critical we conduct research to determine the most effective ways to ensure seniors have the care and support they need," said Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Lisa Harris. 

"With the rising cost of health care, there is an urgent need to find more innovative solutions to keep seniors in their homes, because that is where they wish to be."

The research chair will have a tenured faculty position at St. Thomas and spend half the academic year researching and the other half teaching three new courses.

The McCain Foundation and the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation are co-funding the chair with $1 million over the next five years.

The New Brunswick population has the fastest growing proportion of seniors in Canada, and many are in nursing or long-term care facilities. About 20 per cent of the New Brunswick population is made up of seniors, but by 2031 that will have risen to 30 per cent, according to Harris.

A resource for policy-makers

The research chair will help policy-makers improve programs based on best practices and come up with novel tools and techniques to improve health care and the delivery of social services, said Dr. Bruno Battistini, president, CEO and scientific director of the New Brunswick Health and Research Foundation.

Dawn Russell, president of St. Thomas, said the new research chair will also provide opportunities for students.

She expects an increase in the enrolment of gerontology students as a result of the chair.

"Having a research chair devoting more of their time to research will strengthen the preparation of our students and the work they will be able to do in the future," Russell said.  

The hiring process for the chair will begin in September.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maria Jose Burgos is an award-wining journalist with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Tips? maria.burgos@cbc.ca.

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