June 5, 2023

Seniors’ Week 2023: Research equips fitness pros to help aging Calgarians make social connections

UCalgary and The City of Calgary combine efforts to enhance age friendliness in the community
Older adults exercising

In 2015, the University of Calgary’s Brenda Strafford Centre on Aging embarked on a new collaboration with Age-Friendly Calgary, an initiative of Calgary organizations and citizens dedicated to creating an inclusive and supportive environment for Calgary’s aging population.

With university researchers affiliated with the centre actively supporting Age-Friendly Calgary through their research programs, this collaboration marked a significant step forward in enhancing the age friendliness of Calgary. These research programs inform policies and practices that promote active aging, social inclusion, and improved quality of life for seniors.

“The Brenda Strafford Centre on Aging is leading the age-friendly university initiative, in which we support aging research and education that addresses the needs of older adults through various programs and collaborations. Through our relationship with The City of Calgary we’ve been able to create a collaborative hub that benefits older adults beyond just our campus community, which tends to be the focus of age-friendly university activities,” says Dr. Chantelle Zimmer, PhD, senior project co-ordinator for the centre.

With an overall aim to improve the health and well-being of older adults in an evidence-driven manner, researchers affiliated with the centre are working to find solutions to trends we see in the aging population, such as a decline in physical activity and reduced community interaction.

“Some of our current research has gone into developing a training opportunity for fitness professionals, such as instructors of trainers on how to connect with the aging community through social and physical activity combined,” says Dr. Meghan McDonough, PhD, professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology, whose research examines the role of social relationships in physical activity and health behaviour.

“As we age there’s an increase in barriers that stop us from engaging physically and socially in the community. However, by helping fitness professionals understand how to take away some of those barriers we can create a more inclusive city,” says McDonough.

Older adults high five


Frequent barriers members of the aging population face while trying to engage in community activities include physical limitations, transportation issues, financial constraints, lack of targeted programming, and information/communication gaps.

“One of the things that is interesting about our current research is individuals don’t necessarily go to do their physical activity with the agenda of being social. However, by seeing the same people over time and doing a meaningful activity together it creates an opportunity for community to develop,” says McDonough.

“With our research we’ve provided fitness professionals with the training they need to help participants engage within a group and make organic connections.”

In collaboration with Age-Friendly Calgary, the Brenda Strafford Centre on Aging is excited about the opportunity to show appreciation for our aging population and the many contributions older adults make to our communities during the 2023 Seniors’ Week, which takes place from June 5 to 11. To celebrate the week there will be a wide range of free activities around Calgary that includes fitness, art, golf, social events, meditation, and more. Find out more.

“Seniors’ Week is an important opportunity to show gratitude to all the older adults in our lives and in our community, “ says Pam Manzara, recreation program co-ordinator at The City of Calgary.

“Collaborating with UCalgary through Dr. McDonough’s research has heightened our awareness of the how and why of engaging older adults socially to foster important connections and relationships through the fitness classes we offer at The City of Calgary. Taking this partnership further to work with Fitness Alberta has broadened the opportunity for evidence-informed training to be created and delivered to fitness professionals across Alberta.”

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