New centre for elderly combines research and care

David JohnstonWATERLOO, Ont. – The Centre of Excellence for Innovation in Aging, a facility that will both care for the elderly and research their needs, celebrated its opening last month with Governor General David Johnston (pictured) on hand.

While the official launch of the $9-million research building and long-term care home occurred in October, the facility actually began accepting residents in August. So far, about 170 have moved in to the 192-bed facility. Two additional retirement homes are planned in two later phases.

The project is a partnership between the University of Waterloo, Conestoga College, Schlegel Villages and the Research Institute for Aging.

The new centre houses a medical clinic, facilities for 96 students and four faculty in Conestoga College’s personal support worker and practical nursing programs, as well as six research chairs and research labs specializing in geriatric medicine, training for people working with the elderly, nutrition and aging and other issues related to care for the aged.

Much of the credit for the new centre should go to Ron Schlegel, who owns several residences for the elderly. Schlegel began talking to Johnston in the 1990s about his vision for a “living laboratory” dedicated to care for the elderly.

Research into elder care will become more critical in coming years, Johnston said at the opening, noting that the number of people in Canada aged 65 or older recently surpassed the number of children aged 15 and under, for the first time in the country’s history.

The centre is founded on several key principles, Johnston said, including collaboration between government, the private sector and educational institutions, and the principles of excellence and internationalism.

“Within 10 years, we here (in Waterloo) will be doing the finest research on aging in the world,” he predicted.

The centre will sponsor several international residencies, and has already welcomed delegations from China, Japan, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

The population of seniors in Ontario is expected to double over the next two decades, and the healthcare system is bracing for the need to provide living environments that can meet more complex care needs while enhancing quality of life.

“We have developed a village concept around which a main street and town square exist, and function to build community living with neighbourhoods and friendly neighbours,” said Schlegel, founder and chairman of Schlegel Villages and the RIA. “It is a social model of active living with life purpose, rather than the traditional institutional model of medical care.”

The centre’s design will allow Schlegel Villages’ residents and team members, and community members to work alongside the RIA team, and Waterloo and Conestoga faculty, researchers and students.

“The physical design of the Centre of Excellence for Innovation in Aging will improve quality of life for older adults,” said Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo. “This opening marks the realization of the vision of the Schlegel family and the University of Waterloo to build important infrastructure that is unique in the world and that inspires innovation in research, education and practice.”

Conestoga College will deliver personal support worker and practical nursing programs on-site within the long-term care environment. Featuring both classroom and clinical teaching in addition to technology-enhanced learning, the integrated programs improve graduate preparedness for working with seniors and develop workforce capacity to meet the changing needs of our community.

“This new centre will be instrumental in the development of innovative training models to prepare future generations of healthcare professionals and enhance the quality of life and care for older adults across our community and beyond,” said John Tibbits, president of Conestoga College. “We look forward to working with our partners to address the urgent need for a highly skilled workforce that can address the care needs of our aging population.”

The three-storey facility also houses state-of-the-art research labs on the upper level, and includes office space for six Schlegel Research Chairs. The main floor features classroom and community space, a pharmacy and a medical clinic, which the Centre for Family Medicine Family Health Team will run.

The next phase of the centre, which will include about 200 independent-living apartments, has a target completion of 2020.

Written by Editor

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