In 2011, an estimated 5 million Canadians were 65 years of age or older, a number that is expected to double in the next 25 years. The majority of older adults prefer to live in their family home for as long as possible. However, aging in place – the desire to remain living in the community, with some level of independence – is only possible with provision of adequate housing, transportation, recreational opportunities, health and home services and amenities that facilitate physical activity, social interaction and cultural engagement.
For many older people, receipt of home care services is the only option that enables them to remain independent and live safely in their home. At present, more than 1.4 million Canadians receive publicly funded home care services annually. As the Canadian population ages and with earlier discharges from hospital, the need for home care and associated costs continue to escalate. To ‘age in place’ older people also require community and built environments that facilitate their health and mobility. As health and function decline with aging, older adults’ ability to engage with challenging physical environments (e.g. poor street lighting or long distances to amenities) diminishes and, subsequently, health can be further compromised. We know surprisingly little about aspects of the built environment that enhance older adult health and mobility. Advancing knowledge in this emerging field is key to planning and developing effective strategies that allow older adults to grow old at home.
The overarching goal of Dr. Sims-Gould’s program of research is “adding life to later years” so that older adults can live independently in their homes for as long as possible. Her program of research focuses on enhancing the health and mobility of older adults across two settings: 1. delivery and receipt of home care services, and 2. the neighbourhood built environment. Dr. Sims-Gould’s community based health research program is predominantly qualitative and participatory in nature, and adopts an integrated knowledge translation approach.