Dr. Habib Chaudhury awarded Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) Career Award

June 13, 2022

Dr. Habib Chaudhury has received recognition for his lifetime achievement in the field of environmental design research, education, and practice in Environmental Gerontology

The Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) recognizes the work of individuals that are dedicated toward improving an understanding of the relationships among people, their built environment, and natural ecosystems. The EDRA Career Award recognizes the significant contributions made by Simon Fraser University’s Department of Gerontology Professor and Chair, Dr. Habib Chaudhury in the multidisciplinary field of environmental gerontology.

Through his research, teaching and community-based projects, Dr. Chaudhury has contributed to advancing understanding of the role of the physical environment in improving health, functioning and quality of life of older adults, particularly people living with dementia. His research and evidence-based consulting work have helped develop supportive long-term care environments and seniors’ housing in Canada, United States, Hong Kong and Singapore. Currently, Dr. Chaudhury is Principal Investigator of the Dementia-inclusive Streets and Community Access, Participation, and Engagement (DemSCAPE) project, funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). This project’s team, composed of researchers from SFU, UBC and UNBC, aims to generate actionable evidence-based knowledge and effective knowledge transfer tools and resources through the collaboration with community partners. Understanding how to create a neighbourhood built environment that supports safety, mobility, engagement and social participation can play a crucial role in informing environmental design and planning decisions to enhance mobility and social participation of individuals living with dementia.

Dr. Chaudhury’s on-going advocacy for the role of the designed environment to support human well-being and dignity is reflected in another current research project, the Person Oriented Environmental Tool (POET). He and colleague Dr. Heather Cooke have developed this tool to assess the quality of physical environmental features in the long-term care settings that are supportive/unsupportive of residents’ behaviours and social interactions. Use of this tool will inform care staff and administrators in long-term care facilities how to implement small-scale environmental changes in the care setting to create a more responsive environment for the residents’ needs, preferences and lifestyles.

“Older adults' health, functioning and well-being are critically affected by the physical environment of the home, community and care settings. Accessibility in the home environment, walkability of the neighbourhood, availability and access of amenities and destinations in the neighbourhood, etc. are among the many aspects and features of the home and community that impact older adults' ability to carry out everyday activities independently, social interactions and community participation.” says Chaudhury. “Similarly, the physical environment of assisted living, supportive housing, long term care homes provide support in functioning, support lifestyles and sense of wellbeing of older adults living in these congregate settings. For example, the recent pandemic has highlighted the challenges of outdated and institutional buildings of our long-term care facilities playing an unsupportive role in prevention and control of an outbreak. We need to do a much better job in constructing and renovating our care homes that are not only effective in infection prevention and control, but also provide a homelike environment that supports the highest quality of life of older adults.”

Over the course of his career, Dr. Chaudhury has supervised over 60 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in gerontology and social science disciplines. With his guidance, students have received prestigious awards and recognitions from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, Canadian Institute of Health Research, and Canadian Association on Gerontology.

Dr. Chaudhury’s students commend his ability to deconstruct the multidisciplinary nature of gerontology by focusing on innovative policy, planning, programming, and design decisions that emerge at the intersection of place, social values, and human experience. Dr. Chaudhury is invested in the professional and personal growth of his students and serves as mentor for numerous graduate students.