Commitment to the Community: Engaging our aging population

By George Ardy, BA'15

Memory and musical enjoyment. Sitting is the new smoking. Safe application of orthodontic miniscrews.

These are just a sample of the topics that graduate trainees from Schulich Medicine & Dentistry have presented to senior residents living at Windermere on the Mount during the last year. The presentations are part of an initiative called Retiring with Strong Minds (RWSM), which is a subcommittee of the School's Strong Bones, Strong Mind, Strong Muscles initiative.

The subcommittee is organized by co-chairs Kara Ruicci and Alex Levit, MD/PhD Candidates at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. The overriding goal of RWSM is to shorten the knowledge gap between researchers and the elderly population. One way of doing so is by having trainees from a variety of faculties and departments across campus present topics of their choosing to senior residents.

These talks take place once a month. Each talk features four presenters who are given approximately 10 minutes to present with a five minute question and answer period taking place afterward.

RWSM offers a plethora of benefits to both audience members and presenters. For the residents of Windermere on the Mount it is a chance to learn about fascinating topics that will stir up their curiosity and keep their minds active.

“They definitely learn a lot,” Levit said. “Having presentations delivered to them by people who are basically experts in the field is quite stimulating.”

The presentations also provide a chance for the residents to reminisce and take a stroll down memory lane.

“One individual was telling us that she was a Western graduate and actually went to medical school here,” Ruicci recalled. “I think it’s great that we have the chance as younger people to connect with the senior population.”

The presenters also gain valuable experience by having to explain complicated research concepts to a non-scientific audience.

“As students and trainees, we need to relay complicated scientific information to the public, and often to patients who may not fully understand the situation,” Levit explained. “Ultimately that is the point of research – to make it available to the general public.”

“The questions that the residents ask are different from the ones you get from your advisors,” Ruicci added. “They make you think and really come back to the reason that you started your research in the first place.”

RWSM began with only Schulich Medicine & Dentistry students participating, but Ruicci and Levit have opened it up this year to all faculties on campus and the feedback has been positive. This diversity serves to make the presentations more engaging, with topics ranging from diabetes to musical genres.

“We have more students wanting to present than we have spots to fill,” Ruicci said. “The participation from the residents at the Windermere on the Mount has been steadily increasing as well.”

In order to meet this growing demand Ruicci and Levit are considering holding talks twice a month. There have also been discussions about going to other retirement homes, but the close proximity of Windermere on the Mount to Western’s campus makes it easier for students to travel to.

For more information, including sign-up forms and upcoming dates visit the Retiring with Strong Minds webpage.