U of S researchers making impact in addressing senior health issues

SASKATOON – University of Saskatchewan (U of S) researchers are featured in a comprehensive new report on addressing Canada’s aging population and the challenges the health-care system will face in the coming decades.

The research impact assessment, entitled Impacting Seniors’ Health – The Value of Aging-Related Research in Saskatchewan, is a showcase of research collaborations involving the U of S, the University of Regina (U of R), community groups and partners, as well as the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF). The publication released today in Regina profiles significant challenges to the health-care system as the number of Canadian seniors (aged 65 and over) is projected to double to 25 per cent of the population in the next 20 years.

“This is the kind of impactful research that the University of Saskatchewan is perfectly positioned to contribute to, with experts in the field across a broad spectrum of our colleges and schools, particularly medicine and kinesiology,” said Karen Chad, U of S vice-president research. “We have a built a vibrant culture of health research and innovation on campus that is helping to address critical health issues facing our province.”

The SHRF report highlights some of the major impacts U of S research is having, from reducing injuries through exercise and fall prevention programs such as Fall Arrest Strategy Training (FAST), to improving guidelines for post-heart attack rehabilitation, to identifying and addressing health inequities for rural seniors and Indigenous communities. Meanwhile, promising U of S research into earlier diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease could significantly impact patient outlooks as well as save the Canadian health care system hundreds of millions in costs every year.

Improving care for seniors and preparing for the added stress on the health-care system that the “grey tsunami” of an increasingly aging population will create, is a major focus of research in the College of Medicine at the U of S.

“An aging population does point to increased pressure on the healthcare system in the province and across the country,” said Preston Smith, dean of the U of S College of Medicine. “Focusing on preventative care and addressing chronic conditions and debilitating diseases as early as possible will become even more critical to manage conditions and improve quality of life for our aging population, in addition to helping control costs of care.”

A key component of disease prevention is the important role that physical activity plays. Researchers in the College of Kinesiology at the U of S are focused on helping aging adults and seniors practise preventative strategies, while also providing innovative rehabilitation programming.

“We are making significant strides in our aging-related research by drawing on inter-disciplinary collaborations on campus and in the community to address not only treatment and therapy, but injury and disease prevention through exercise and activity,” said Chad London, dean of the U of S College of Kinesiology. “We are committed to fostering a team approach that includes our students, our colleagues in other colleges, and our community partners, in order to improve outcomes and quality of life for all seniors.”

“Health research funders are looking for better ways to demonstrate accountability and return on investment to ensure that funded research is relevant to the challenges faced by our province,” said Patrick Odnokon, interim CEO of SHRF. “This publication is a showcase of researchers and community members working together to address complex issues affecting the senior population. We’re proud of the investments that have been made to build and broaden Saskatchewan’s health research and innovation capacity in the area of aging and to see the positive impact on the health of Saskatchewan’s seniors.”

 There are 13 U of S researchers highlighted in the new SHRF report who are available for media interviews.

Here is a brief look at the researchers, listed in alphabetical order, and their principal areas of study:

  • Sylvia Abonyi, associate professor, Medicine: Examining the role of culture in population health, including respiratory illnesses like tuberculosis, as well as diabetes, aging, and food security.
  • Dr. Jenny Basran, associate professor, Medicine: The head of geriatric medicine at the U of S is working with engineering and computer science colleagues to develop a falls detection system for older adults.
  • Larry Brawley, Canada Research Chair, Kinesiology: Examining a novel behaviour change intervention model that helps older adults self-manage exercise and maintain gains in health and function after intervention completion.
  • Phil Chilibeck, professor, Kinesiology: Focusing on using novel nutritional supplements in conjunction with exercise programs, in order to improve bone health in older adults.
  • Jon Farthing, associate professor, Kinesiology: Studying rehabilitation techniques for fractures, stroke and other neurological impairment affecting one side of the body, by training the opposite side.
  • Nancy Gyurcsik, professor, Kinesiology: Examining psychological factors motivating older adults with arthritis to exercise, as a prevention and therapy tool.
  • Saija Kontulainen, professor, Kinesiology: Developing strategies to prevent bone deterioration diseases such as osteoporosis, particularly for post-menopausal women who are prone to fractures.
  • Joel Lanovaz, associate professor, Kinesiology: Working in collaboration with the School of Physical Therapy to investigate frailty and fall-related injuries and effective prevention techniques.
  • Debra Morgan, professor, Medicine: Dedicated to improving rural and remote health service delivery, particularly for individuals with dementia, and their caregivers.
  • Darrell Mousseau, professor, Medicine: Studying causes of Alzheimer’s disease and its connection to depression, in order to improve early diagnosis and treatment options prior to full onset of symptoms.
  • Alison Oates, assistant professor, Kinesiology: Researching sensory information to improve balance while walking for older adults, to try to help prevent fall-related injuries.
  • Sarah Oosman, assistant professor, Medicine: Exploring community-based health intervention research and programs in partnership with First Nations and Métis communities.
  • Corey Tomczak, assistant professor, Kinesiology: Focusing on preventing heart failure following a heart attack, by employing earlier referrals and earlier initiations of cardiac rehabilitation programs.




About the University of Saskatchewan:
The University of Saskatchewan is one of Canada’s top 15 research-intensive universities, welcoming more than 20,000 Canadian and international students annually. World-class research centres on campus include global institutes for food and water security, the Canadian Light Source synchrotron, the Crop Development Centre, and the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac).


About the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation:

The Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) is the provincial agency that provides the funding necessary to fuel a vibrant culture of health research and innovation for a stronger Saskatchewan. SHRF invests in high-quality, peer-reviewed health research aligned with provincial needs through research grants and award opportunities, and promotes the impact this research has on local and global health.


For more information, contact:

Jennifer Thoma
Media Relations Specialist
University of Saskatchewan


Kate Blau
Communications Specialist
College of Medicine
University of Saskatchewan




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