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SFU gerontologist Theresa Pauly named a 2023 Canada Research Chair
Social influences on lifespan development and aging involve a complex interplay of psychological, social, and physiological factors. Pauly's interdisciplinary background allows for comprehensive data collection and analysis, examining social relationships and their impact on health outcomes from a holistic perspective.
Pauly hopes to promote healthy aging and inform policy change in three significant areas: social resources that support older adults’ health in everyday life; factors that contribute to or protect against the widespread issue of loneliness in old age; and social risks and resources for health in older adults who identify as belonging to minoritized groups.
Promoting healthy aging has become a public health priority due to the growing aging populations worldwide. Social relationships have a profound impact on health and well-being, particularly in the context of aging. Robust social connections have been linked to better physical and mental health outcomes. Understanding the complex dynamics between social relationships and health in the aging population can inform interventions and policies, to promote positive social contexts and reduce social isolation among older adults. Addressing social factors relevant to health can potentially reduce healthcare costs, improve health outcomes, and enhance the quality of life for older individuals.
Research has shown that social relationships are important for healthy aging, but studies have primarily focused on privileged groups. Health disparities are more prominent among racial and ethnic groups and sexual or gender minorities. Older adults identifying as lesbian, gay, and bisexual are at a higher risk of poor physical and mental health due to factors such as limited access to healthcare and discrimination. Understanding the unique social and health needs of diverse older individuals is vital to improve the health and well-being of marginalized groups.
As a CRC in Social Relationships, Health, and Aging, Pauly’s research focuses on understanding how social, biological, and behavioural factors impact the health and well-being of older adults. By combining self-report data with monitored health behaviours and biomarkers, Pauly investigates how social connections impact aging populations in both the short-term (daily life data) and long-term (longitudinal data collected over years). Pauly’s research has practical implications for resource allocation, healthcare policies, and community programs and services that foster social engagement and support healthy aging.
Being appointed as a CRC provides crucial resources for conducting innovative studies, acquiring necessary equipment and materials, and supporting research personnel. This support allows Pauly to develop and pursue her research program, explore new avenues of inquiry, and drive innovation in the field. This appointment brings with it a strong reputation and recognition both nationally and internationally, enhancing visibility for Pauly’s work and opening doors to collaborations, networking opportunities, and invitations to prestigious conferences and events. Furthermore, it empowers Pauly to make meaningful contributions to the field, advance knowledge, and have a significant impact on improving the health and well-being of older adults.