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Graduate Students reach out to help local seniors can retire with Strong Minds

On the first Friday of each month, residents at Windermere on the Mount retirement residence make their way to the theatre for a unique lecture series event, Retiring with Strong Minds. Organized by the Strong Bones, Strong Minds, Strong Muscles (SBSMSM) group at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, the series offers a variety of lectures from health and wellness to the arts and everything in between.

The series which began a few years ago, initially planned to present information and research on health and wellness to residents. The residents however wanted to hear more.

 “When we started with this idea, we hoped to focus most of the presentations on issues that would be helpful to the residents, focusing more on health and wellness. However, many of those who attended gave us feedback that they would like to hear about other subjects, like arts and history. We opened up our call for presentations to other graduate programs and now offer a really wide range of topics as a result,” said Hilary Brown, coordinator for SBSMSM.

At the most recent presentation in April, residents were treated to two talks from PhD students from the faculties of Social Science and Health Sciences. The two presenters were not your ‘typical’ students – James Koren, PhD Candidate from Social Science decided to return to school upon his retirement from the IT industry, and spoke about his work on anthropological digs. Maureen Loft, PhD Candidate from Health Sciences is a Nurse Practitioner working for St. Joseph’s Health Care London and discussed her research on coping mechanisms for stress. Both kept the audience captivated with their research topics. 

One resident, whattends every session of Retiring with Strong Minds that she can. “I enjoy learning about all the interesting things that are happening just down the street at the University,” she said. While she enjoys all of the presentations, she is slightly partial to those related to medicine - her late husband was a radiologist at St. Joseph’s Hospital and her daughter is currently a physiotherapist at University Hospital. “You could say medicine sort of runs in my family, so that is the topic I enjoy most.”

Jon Snir, logistics coordinator for Retiring with Strong Minds notes that many of the residents who attend the sessions are former faculty members of Western University and Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. “It’s great to see the interaction between the presenters and the researchers. Many of those who attend have some background in academia. We get a lot of great discussion between the students and the residents.”

The initiative is co-chaired by SBSMSM members Kyla Naylor and Lynn Zhu who are in charge of recruiting graduate students to present. Graduate students from all faculties across Western are encouraged to participate. While the presentation series is a benefit to residents at Windermere on the Mount, students also benefit from participating.

“Our overall goal is to connect researchers with the public. It provides students with the opportunity of learning to present their research to a lay-audience,” Brown said.