Student Profile: Habana Gutierrez

November 30, 2022

Habana Gutierrez is currently working on her Master’s degree in Gerontology. Her research area will focus on transition and integration processes from one’s home to Long Term Care. Habana completed her undergraduate degree in Calgary studying Behavioural Sciences. In her last semester, she took a course in narrative psychology which sparked her interest in gerontology because of her connection with the older adults in her own life.

Growing up in Spain, Habana spent a lot of her time with her grandparents. During this time, her grandma had dementia and was living in a long-term care residence. One thing that Habana noticed was the lack of mental stimulation and engagement for residents in the long-term care facility.

Initially, Habana began her journey at SFU in the Post Baccalaureate Diploma program in Gerontology. After completing one semester in the Diploma program, she was encouraged to transfer into the Master’s program. Habana’s research interests have led her to Dr. Andrew Wister who is her supervisor.

Although she is still in the first year of her program, Habana has actively pursued opportunities in the community to grow her field experience. She has recently completed an internship with United Way. In this position, Habana created and disseminated program best practice profiles of community based senior services that provide older adults with information on food health. In conjunction to this, Habana supported the community engagement team in the planning of initiatives and projects throughout her internship.

Habana is still in the process of narrowing the focus of her research project. In the meantime, she is working as a research assistant for the Dementia-Inclusive Streets and Community Access, Participation and Engagement (DemSCAPE) project. The aim of this research project is to identify features of neighbourhoods that affect the mobility of people living with dementia and develop a user-friendly tool to assess environments and support people living with dementia. As a research assistant she is involved in data collection, where she conducts interviews with participants to see how the built environment affects a person with dementia.

After completing her Master’s degree, Habana sees herself staying in Vancouver to find work at a community organization, such as: a long-term care facility, an adult day center, or in program services. At some point in the future, Habana would also love to relocate to a rural community to connect with older adults that may not have access to the same resources that are available in larger cities.

Habana’s advice for prospective students interested in Gerontology:

  1. Be curious and open-minded to different opportunities and allow yourself to explore your interests and have new experiences.
  2. Find a balance between school, life, and work and use the resources that are available to you through school.
  3. Volunteer in the community – not only will this expand your network, but it will also help you discover a research area that you are interested in.

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