Trent University is a leader in the study of aging, with world-renowned faculty contributing to this relevant field, among them is the Rural Aging Research Program, led by Dr. Mark Skinner, Dr. Elizabeth Russell and Amber Colibaba ’10, who were recently presented with the University’s inaugural Research Impact Award. The award recognizes researchers or research teams stewarding original and impactful research that makes a significant contribution to society.
“This award is very well deserved, as evidenced through the team’s far-reaching knowledge mobilization efforts, not only in the community but in influencing policy and in working with the non-profit sector,” says Dr. Cathy Bruce, acting vice-president of Research and Innovation at Trent. “The innovative Rural Aging Research Program has enhanced our broad understanding of aging in rural communities and has added nuance and depth to this very current research field.”
Rural communities across the globe are experiencing rapid population aging, making the work of the Rural Aging Research Program increasingly relevant. Since 2016, the Trent Centre for Aging & Society-based research team has contributed wide-reaching research findings through two main streams – the first examining rural age-friendly initiatives and the second focusing on older voluntarism in aging rural communities. The research projects conducted under this program have received significant tri-council funding over the years, and have resulted in widely published scholarly, community, and policy literature, including the just released 2021 international book Rural Gerontology: Towards Critical Perspectives on Rural Ageing.
“We are truly honoured to be recognized by our peers at Trent, and we share this award with our collaborators in the community without whom aging research would not be possible,” says Dr. Mark Skinner, Canada research chair (CRC) in rural aging, health, and social care, founding director of the Trent Centre for Aging and Society (TCAS) and dean of Humanities and Social Sciences. “We are grateful for the opportunity to work with such inspiring community partners in the Peterborough region, all working towards supporting rural older adults.”
The Rural Aging Research Program is also moving forward with a new project, through which the team aims to develop new insights into voluntarism and the role of older volunteers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A collaborative research environment
With a goal of strengthening the ability for rural older adults to age in place, the Rural Aging Research Program takes an engaged, community-centred approach to research and knowledge mobilization, engaging with policymakers, rural residents, volunteers, and older people in each research phase.
“Trent’s collaborative and supportive environment provides an excellent space for collaborating with community partners, and for training the next generation of rural aging scholars,” says Dr. Elizabeth Russell, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and TCAS director. “Our work through the Rural Aging Research Program would not be possible without the Trent Centre for Aging & Society. TCAS’s collaborative and interdisciplinary nature strongly encourages the development of world-class research on aging here at Trent and internationally.”
Amber Colibaba, coordinator of the Rural Aging Research Program and TCAS, agrees: “I am honoured to win this award alongside my mentors, Dr. Skinner and Dr. Russell. As a junior researcher, their guidance has showed me the importance of collaborative community-based research in having a direct impact on the local community.”
As part of the Research Impact Award, the Rural Aging Research Program received a $500 cash award, which the team donated to one of their community partners, Abbeyfield House Society of Lakefield, in recognition of all of the community partners they have worked with over the years.