Planting the seed for hip health

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The growing population of older adults is at risk of age-related health problems and faces challenges getting out and around in their community, according to Heather McKay, Peter Wall Faculty Associate and Director of UBC's Centre for Hip Health and Mobility.

The aging demographic will challenge cities to adapt the urban environment to be "age-friendly", she says, allowing for people to live healthfully, comfortably and independently as they age.

She now leads the Wall Solutions project, Active Streets, Active People (ASAP), which focuses on the intersections between physical mobility, the neighbourhood built environment, social interactions— and ultimately, how these things impact health. The goal is to better identify urban features that help individuals across the lifespan (1 to 100 years) live healthy, active lives in their neighbourhoods.

Bett and Roy Bull, participants from the ASAP documentary production, I'd Rather Stay.

Over the last three years, McKay's team has worked with the City of Vancouver and the West End Seniors' Network to influence the design of the Comox-Helmcken Greenway in Vancouver, which aimed to improve mobility in the West End for all citizens, especially older adults.

McKay's project, now in its fourth year, is finding ways of using visual media to engage communities and develop strategies to support the mobility and health of older people.

The ASAP team developed a 20-minute documentary, I'd Rather Stay, which was screened at the Portland Film Festival and the Chicago International Film Festival for Social Change in 2014.

McKay's Centre for Hip Health also recently received a $4.5 million grant through the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) to help prevent falls and hip fractures in older adults and enhance mobility though early intervention.

The seeds for Mckay's research into fall prevention mobility in older adults began during her tenure as an 2001-2002 Early Career Scholar at the Peter Wall Institute and continued during a 2002 Exploratory Workshop, Transdisciplinary Research to Prevent the Epidemic of Hip Fracture, led by Karim Khan, founder of the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility, and 2001-2002 Peter Wall Early Career Scholar

“Our Exploratory Workshop helped build substantial relationships that led to collaborations across Canada and internationally,” says Khan.

Two years later in 2004, Khan and others received funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation program to build the Centre. The Centre subsequently opened in 2011.

"The important relationships we created during our tenure as Scholars at the Institute shaped the course of the workshop and later studies," adds McKay.

Part of the recent $4.5 million grant from PHSA will enable the Centre for Hip Health to expand programming that increases the mobility of less active seniors through education and awareness, such as the ASAP project, as well as tailored programs, and the development of tools to create safe and healthy communities.

Learn more about the Wall Solutions Active Streets, Active People project and the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility