Sheridan President and Vice Chancellor Dr. Janet Morrison speaks to guests at the Centre for Elder Research's 20th anniversary event.

Sheridan Centre for Elder Research celebrates 20 years of improving older adults' quality of life

Sep 22, 2023

The Sheridan Centre for Elder Research (CER), one of Canada's longest-standing college-based research centres focused on aging, commemorated its 20th anniversary with a celebration Sept. 20 at Trafalgar Road Campus.

More than 70 staff, faculty, students, past and current research participants, external partners and members of the community gathered at Sheridan Conference Centre for the event. Sheridan President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Janet Morrison and CER Director Dr. Lia Tsotsos delivered remarks and invited the guests to enjoy short research presentations, displays of past and current projects, a cake-cutting ceremony and networking opportunities.Staff from the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research prepare to cut a cake celebrating the centre's 20th anniversary.

Founded by former Social Service Worker - Gerontology diploma program coordinator Pat Spadafora, the CER aims to conduct high-quality, impactful research in the field of aging to benefit older adults, their families, and the people, tools and environments that support them and contribute to their well-being. Since opening its doors in 2003, the CER has completed more than 150 applied research, evaluation and design projects; engaged more than 1,000 students as research assistants, practicum/co-op students, volunteers or for their thesis/capstone assignments; established partnerships with more than 100 industry, community and academic partners; and hosted more than 250 events.

"As the longest-running research centre at Sheridan, the Centre for Elder Research — an integral part of Generator at Sheridan — is emblematic of Sheridan's place at the forefront of innovation, from idea generation to applied research that tackles real-world issues that matter. For the past two decades, the CER has adapted to shifting trends and challenges that impact an aging population amidst an ever-changing world, never wavering from its mandate to implement innovative strategies that improve the quality of life for older adults and their families," said Dr. Morrison.

"Addressing isolation and food insecurity, accessing immersive applications in virtual reality and augmented reality, and creating engaging arts-based environments that stimulate the mind are simply a few examples of the CER's continual deliverance of forward-thinking work that addresses relevant and timely issues and supports the needs of a vulnerable population across our communities." 

Current and recently-completed CER projects and collaborations have addressed issues that are timely and relevant issues to an aging society, such as:

  • meeting nutritional and wellness needs of 700 older adult clients living in community housing during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • documenting reactions and experiences of older persons throughout the pandemic
  • exploring the use of virtual reality to enhance the well-being of older adults in congregate living and attending adult day programs
  • combining standardized memory training with embodied, visual art-making experiences
  • broadening understanding of how caregivers perceive and manage interactions with family and other unpaid caregivers
  • improving supports to reduce loneliness and social isolation experienced by older immigrants
  • supporting the creation of evidence-based anti-bullying strategies that target bullying behaviours between older adults

Guests at the Centre for Elder Research's 20th anniversary event read about the centre's history.During the 20th anniversary event, several CER researchers and staff shared details about upcoming projects and priorities, including studying how individuals 55 and older interact with, access and navigate the built environment of Trafalgar Road Campus; removing barriers to volunteering or civic participation by older adults; better understanding experiences of older adults living in poverty in order to combat stereotypes and advocate for living and dying with dignity; and working with community partners to support arts-based interventions and supports for frontline healthcare workers experiencing moral distress.

"The Sheridan Centre for Elder Research is very different from any other research lab I've been to. The way in which staff, students, older adults, industry partners and community organizations collaboratively discuss issues and ideas is a model I had not seen before, and it has always resonated with me as a way to bring greater meaning to all levels of research while embedding empathy into the conversation," said Dr. Tsotsos, who became the CER's Director in 2018 after nearly seven years as a member of the Centre's team.

Dr. Tsotsos also noted a 20th anniversary is an opportune time to stake stock and set intentions for what comes next. "I eagerly look forward to expanding our assessment and implementation work leveraging high-technology devices and services in collaboration with our Generator at Sheridan research colleagues across the college; opening channels for communication, collaboration and partnership with historically underserved, underrepresented or marginalized groups; and supporting projects that can scale up, be sustainable and make a difference in the day-to-day lives of as many people as possible."

Learn more about the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research

In banner photo, Sheridan President and Vice Chancellor Dr. Janet Morrison delivers remarks during the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research (CER) 20th anniversary event. In second photo (pictured left to right), Research Lead Dr. Karen Slonim, Schlegel Innovation Leader Dr. Kate Dupuis, Director Dr. Lia Tsotsos and Research Coordinator Isabel Paniak prepare to cut a celebratory cake. In third photo, event attendees visit a booth displaying the CER's history.

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