CORNER BROOK — Anne Martin-Matthews has been researching aging since she was a master’s student.
“I’ve always been interested in transitional life events and changes that people experience,” said Martin-Matthews.
Martin-Matthews spent eight years leading the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s National Institute of Aging and now teaches sociology at the University of British Columbia.
On Monday, she shared her expertise and experience with participants in the Aging Research in Newfoundland and Labrador: Achievements and Prospects conference in a keynote address at the Pepsi Centre.
Her talk centred on how research in aging has changed over the years and in particular a new focus on community engagement.
She spoke of a knowledge translation that equals a collaboration between researchers and stakeholders. She said the emphasis is on partnerships.
In the past, research focused more on older people as subjects in research, said Martin-Matthews following her talk.
“And we used to talk about in those days ‘the elderly,’ which is a very kind of homogenized way of not really recognizing the diversity of the experience of later life for people.”
But now the focus is more on involving the people in the research. Not just asking the questions researchers think need asking, but finding out about what the people think is important.
She said this was the case in a study on homecare where researchers thought what would be most important to people receiving care would be getting the service every week.
However, Martin-Matthews said through interviews it was learned that what most concerned people was often the lack of consistency with workers that occurred.
“It gave us a sense of what were their priorities. And sometimes their daily priority was not what was on the care plan for that day.”
Another thing that came out of the study was a concern for client safety.
Martin-Matthews is now on a committee with the Canadian Patient Safety Institute and VON Canada that is looking at client safety issues in homecare and that will be developing policy recommendations around that.
She said it is wonderful to do research and then be part of a committee making tangible recommendations.
She said it’s important for the research to make a difference.
“That it actually has a relevance and an impact on the lives of older people.”
She said in a world where resources are scarcer and research funding is harder to get that this is becoming more and more important.
“You want to know that there will be a value added to the research that you do and that it is relevant and it is addressing meaningful issues, and when you know what’s important to older people ... what they think are the key issues, then you’ve already taken that step when you do research.”
She said the results will be things they want or need.