McMaster receives $10M gift to promote healthy aging
McMaster University has been given the resources to support a major initiative to promote healthy aging and to make that knowledge widely available.
The enterprise is being sparked by businesswoman and McMaster graduate Suzanne Labarge. She has given a gift of $10 million to McMaster for a program sponsoring interdisciplinary research and a website portal on healthy aging that will provide accessible information for the public as well as health care professionals, researchers and policy makers. The program is called the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative.
“Aging is a huge issue for this society, and it needs to be addressed,” said Suzanne Labarge. “I’m confident McMaster, with its multidisciplinary approach and focus on evidence-based medicine, is the best place to pull it all together and advance both the knowledge and the response to the needs of our aging population.”
The initiative was announced at the University today.
“All of her life Suzanne Labarge has been a visionary leader, both in the business world and as an alumna and friend of McMaster,” said Patrick Deane, president of the university. “Her gift allows us to marshal our resources in this area and to advance our approaches in order to significantly improve and promote healthy aging within our society.”
The Labarge Optimal Aging Opportunities Fund will provide seed funding for research aimed at maximizing mobility, slowing chronic disease and tackling deadly infections. The first set of new McMaster research projects in these areas will include:
- Professors in occupational therapy and engineering collaborating to find better car designs for older drivers and passengers;
- Kinesiology experts studying how lean muscle mass reduces with age and the link to exercise and nutrition;
- Nursing faculty examining the advantages of nurse-led education or self-management programs for older adults with diabetes;
- Rehabilitation specialists investigating how yoga can help older women with arthritis maintain mobility;
- Physicians and biostatisticians looking at how a diet focused on fruits and vegetables may slow chronic disease and the genetic risk of cardiovascular disease and,
- A team of researchers and specialists in infectious disease exploring the effectiveness of probiotics on respiratory infections.
“The Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative will allow prominent researchers at McMaster to focus their research more closely on the aging population,” said Susan Denburg, associate vice-president, academic for the Faculty of Health Sciences and university lead for the initiative. “The gift will seed multiple research projects focusing on areas of relevance to seniors, creating incubators for interdisciplinary innovation.”
The McMaster Optimal Aging Portal, available through a website, will provide a unique, one-stop information source with a wide array of information and tools to answer the many questions about healthy aging from Canadians, health care providers and policy makers.
“This web-based portal is intended to become Canada’s authoritative voice on aging, by communicating continually updated, evidence-based information,” said Denburg.
All information on the user-friendly portal will be vetted by subject experts and evaluated for quality; and the user will also be linked to related resources and services relevant to their inquiry.
In addition to the website, the project will engage the key audiences through public talks, forums and media outreach.
Suzanne Labarge received a BA in economics from McMaster in 1967 and a MBA from Harvard University in 1971. She worked for the Royal Bank for 14 years before spending a decade with the federal government in several senior positions, including deputy superintendent of financial institutions. She returned to executive positions in RBC, retiring as its vice-chairman and chief risk officer in 2004.
Her earlier gifts to McMaster have included an endowment to establish the Raymond and Margaret Labarge Chair in Research and Knowledge Application for Optimal Aging, named in tribute to her parents who were involved in both quality education and aging issues.
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