Spring Research Symposium
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Program information

Scheduled presenters


How many medications is too many?  Strategies for safely deprescribing medications in older adults
Lalitha Raman-Wilms, PharmD.
Dean, College of Pharmacy, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba

For many older adults, taking multiple prescriptions (five or more medications) concurrently is part of their daily life. Also known as polypharmacy, this commonly affects older adults and can result in significant side effects such as falls and cognitive impairment.

During this session, Dr. Raman-Wilms will discuss the clinical implications of polypharmacy for older adults, including adverse drug reactions and drug interactions; describe tools and strategies used to screen older adults for polypharmacy; review strategies to optimize medication use; and discuss educational strategies that older adults can consider for safer medication use. She will also identify how the Canadian Deprescribing Network (CaDeN) is working to raise awareness and decrease the use of potentially inappropriate medications for seniors.


Comparative Studies of Spatial Cognition: What can birds tell us about aging?
Debbie Kelly, PhD
Canada Research Chair in Comparative Cognition, Professor, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, University of Manitoba

Orientation is the first step involved in navigation. Successful orientation allows us to establish our position within an environment, but failure to orient may leave us lost even within familiar places. Dr. Kelly’s research compares the spatial abilities of humans and birds across the lifespan to understand how aging affects orientation. This presentation will discuss current research studies showing similarities in age-related changes for the use of visual-based spatial cues by birds and humans.

Improving care in long-term care: What can we learn from current research in our province?
Moderator: Genevieve Thompson, PhD, Associate Professor, College of Nursing, University of Manitoba
Christina Lengyel, PhD, RD, Associate Professor, Department of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba
Deanne O’Rourke, R.N., M.N., GNC(C), PhD(c), College of Nursing, University of Manitoba
Kerstin Stieber Roger, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Community Health Sciences, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba

In the province of Manitoba, there has been a rich history of conducting research in long-term care. This research spans a broad spectrum from examining people’s experiences of living in long-term care, determinants of food intake and person-centred practices, to macro level system factors such as how many long-term beds are needed in our province. This symposium will highlight the research being done in our province to improve the quality of care and quality of life of those living, dying, visiting and working in long-term care facilities. 


The development and pilot evaluation of an information decision-aid for late-life depression
Kristin Reynolds, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, University of Manitoba

Population-based data from Canada and the United States indicates that between 3–7% of older adults ages 55 years and older meet diagnostic criteria for any past-year mood disorder. Despite the existence of effective, evidence-based treatment approaches, approximately 70% of older adults with mood and anxiety disorders do not use professional mental health services. Though many barriers to mental health service use have been identified, there is growing support that poor mental health literacy, defined as “knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders, their recognition, management, or prevention,” poses significant barriers to service use among older adults (Jorm et al., 1997, p.182). One tool that has been shown to facilitate knowledge exchange and participation in health care decision-making is the information decision-aid (IDA), which presents information about a problem, assessment methods, and treatment options. Research by Dr. Reynolds, collaborators (Drs. John Walker and Lesley Koven), and research assistants in the Health Information Exchange Lab, funded by the University of Manitoba Centre on Aging, sought to develop and complete a pilot-evaluation of an IDA focused on late-life depression. Throughout this plenary session, Dr. Reynolds will discuss the background research that led to this project, the components of the IDA, and the evaluative feedback from stakeholder groups. She will also review implications of the IDA, paying particular attention to the utility of the IDA in community and health care settings.


In the news today: exploring newspaper coverage of violence and aggression in older adults
Laura Funk, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Criminology, Faculty of Arts, University of Manitoba

Some older adults with cognitive impairment can respond to circumstances in ways that have been labelled responsive or reactive; care partners and workers who struggle with the effects of these actions can experience them as aggressive or violent. The ways in which we talk about these events are generally recognized by gerontologists as having important implications. The news media both draws on and further fuels broader public perceptions in this regard. In this presentation Dr. Funk will outline and discuss highlights from a recent study of how national and provincial print and online news sources portray violence and aggression in older adults with cognitive impairment. Findings will be discussed in relation to broader public fears and stigma related to aging, dementia, and aging populations.

What have we learned from sharing dance with people living with dementia and carers?
Rachel Herron, PhD
Canada Research Chair in Rural and Remote Mental Health; Associate Professor, Department of Geography, Faculty of Sciences, Brandon University

A growing body of research suggests that the arts (e.g. music, dance, painting) can improve the lives of people living with dementia. Much of this research has focused on measuring the impact of arts-based programs on ‘behaviour’, cognition, and emotional states. Given the positive health outcomes that have been demonstrated, the instrumental use of the arts to generate social and behavioural changes is increasingly adopted as a non-pharmacological approach to managing and/or improving behaviour, cognition, and emotional states in dementia care. Little attention has been given to other benefits of engaging with the arts such as social inclusion. In this presentation, I examine the potential of an innovative dance program developed by Baycrest Health Sciences and Canada’s National Ballet School, as a holistic approach to enriching the lives of people with dementia and their carers. Drawing on qualitative research with older people and carers, dance program facilitators and instructors, and knowledge users from pilot studies in two Canadian provinces (Manitoba and Ontario) I highlight how dance can support broader dimensions of health and citizenship. I conclude by commenting on how experiences of Sharing Dance Seniors can inform the further development of arts-based programs to improve the health and wellbeing of older people across Canada and internationally.  

Hanging in the balance: Neuromechanics and the quest to reduce falls risk among older adults
Jonathan Singer, PhD
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management

Falls among older adults continue to be a major public health concern. Despite considerable scientific focus on stability control and falls, we have not been overly successful in reducing the rate of falls among older adults. By developing and using new neuromechanically-based measures of static and dynamic stability control, Dr. Singer hopes to better understand the specific factors that lead to instability and falls among older adults. The ultimate goal is for this information to be used to inform the development of individualized balance rehabilitation protocols. This presentation will provide an overview of current models of balance control along with some new work and evidence that aims to change our understanding of why older adults experience a higher risk of falls.




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